Assorted Antipastos, Garden Vegetable Soup, Sicilian Seafood Pasta
Occupation: Electrical Design Engineer
Favorite Restaurant: Caesar's Italian Restaurant
Reviewed Caesar's Italian Restaurant: Thursday, December 11, 2008
Caesar's Restaurant has been in San Francisco for over 50 years, and I have been going there for at least 20 of those years. The food is served family style, it's authentic Italian, and the waitstaff is some of the best I've had and very friendly.
You certainly can't go wrong with the voted "City's Best" calamari that is fried to perfection. The veal steak (when available) is to die for, and their famous crab cioppino, available Tuesday thru Friday, is outrageous. Their pastas are wonderful, and if you’re lucky, you'll go on a night when chef-owner Matteo Crivello serves his Italian short ribs that melt in your mouth, a real treat.
The decor sets you back to the 50s era of what a gentlemen’s club might have been like. Italian light fixtures in the main dining room offer a soft glow. The leather, high back booths offer a bit of privacy, yet have an openness about them. The bar in the front is dark wood, and runs the length of the room, and has an inviting feel.
The restaurant also serves a five-course meal for a very reasonable price. They start you with antipasti, which includes an array of Italian meats and pickled vegetables. The next course is the wonderful minestrone soup, followed by a house salad. If you’re not too full, you choose from one of three entrees, which is followed by coffee, Italian spumoni ice cream, or Bugia, which is a type of thin Italian cookie dusted with powdered sugar and is made fresh at the restaurant daily. These are a must-have to end the meal. They instantly melt in your mouth. You can't find these anywhere else! They also have a hot zabaione, which is smooth and creamy, and if you have room, don't pass this up!
Their standard menu offers a large selection of choices as well as nightly specials.
We selected a Three Course dinner, but the restaurant added an extra fourth course:
Course #1. Assorted Antipasti: Plate of three cold cuts, marinated white cannelloni beans, tomatoes with mozzarella cheese.
Course #2. Soup or Salad: My fiancé ordered the minestrone soup, and I had a small shrimp mix green salad.
Course #3. Capellini with Neapolitan sauce. (Compliments of the chef)
Course #4. My fiancé ordered the Cannelloni alla Romana, which was filled with a delightful blend of pork, veal, and spinach and baked until golden brown, all smothered with cheese in a zesty tomato sauce. I ordered the special, Sicilian Seafood Pasta, which consisted of clams, mussels, white fish, salmon, and Dungeness crab served over a bed of linguine with a light and spicy tomato sauce.
Course #5. Dessert: Bugia (Sicilian cookies) with coffee.
Beverages: I had a Campari and soda while my fiancé enjoyed a glass of Chardonnay at the antique 50-60 year-old bar. It is worth sitting there and having a cocktail and taking in the surroundings of what old San Francisco might have been like back then.
There is one reason we keep going back, it's classic San Francisco North Beach Italian comfort food that will put a smile on your face every time. Simply put, I can't think of anywhere better to experience that then at Caesar’s Restaurant.
Reservations are recommended and they also offer Valet Parking for $6.00.
Occupation: Fashion Writer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: farmerbrown
Reviewed Caesar's Italian Restaurant: Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Caesar's really is old school. When it comes to true Italian restaurants, they excel in every aspect. The service is friendly and authentic, and everyone was extremely hospitable. Walking in without any reservations, the kind hostess seated us immediately. The layout is a bit funny, as there are three separate rooms that make up the restaurant, but our table in the room adjacent to the bar was comfortable.
Immediately, I noticed that we were surrounded by families. Grandparents, their children, and their grandchildren were seated on all sides of us, and everyone was having a great time. My boyfriend and I (probably the only couple under 50) thoroughly enjoyed our Sicilian waiter and were served very quickly.
For a meat eater, their menu is really extensive. I ordered the gnocchi (my favorite Italian food), but they were completely out, so I opted for the capellini pasta, which was nice and light with just the right amount of chunky red sauce. The boyfriend had prosciutto and melon for a starter, which he really liked. He ordered the seafood combination plate for an entree.
The prices were very reasonable, even for the seven-course meal, which we both thought about getting, but we had to catch a show at Cobb's and figured the multiple courses would take a bit more time than we had to spare. Between dishes, the waiter brought over a plate of pasta with meat sauce for him to enjoy, which was a really nice touch. We weren't sure if it was because he didn't order a pasta dish for his entree, or because they just do that to keep people busy while they're waiting for their food. I noticed he did that for every other table as well, so it was a nice little bonus for him.
The decor is very classic and simple, but one thing I didn't really like was the lighting -- it was almost like a cafeteria inside the dining rooms. The interiors weren't ugly, but an update on the decor might make it just that much more interesting. We went in thinking it would be just a mediocre Italian place, but everything we had was great and the service was fantastic. Overall, we were very happy with our experience at Caesar's and will probably return in the coming weeks.
Occupation: English Professor
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Shanghai Dumpling King
Reviewed Caesar's Italian Restaurant: Sunday, December 14, 2008
I can appreciate (and truly enjoy) hip gourmet Italian restaurants like Delfina or Beretta, but I’m also grateful for places like Caesar’s Italian Restaurant with its comfortable Old World atmosphere, the tuxedoed waiters, the white tablecloths, and the dining room bustle of large, multi-generational families. It’s not the kind of restaurant I tend to frequent, so I was immediately happy to be there.
We were a group of eight, and each of us ordered the seven-course meal, for which Caesar’s is known. With any entrée (and for roughly $30.00) you get a salad, vegetable soup, assorted antipasti, pasta with meat sauce, dessert, and coffee. The salad was fairly plain in appearance -- iceberg lettuce, slivers of carrot, a slice of beet -- but the mystery dressing (some kind of Italian/Thousand Island concoction), was surprisingly good. And everyone raved about the vegetable soup -- simple and warm, perfect for the cold night.
The assorted antipasti arrived as a group of shared plates -- there were the usual Italian meats and cheeses, green olives, marinated mushrooms, some kind of mystery vegetable that was covered in a slightly spicy sauce. Particularly good was the calamari, which tasted more like a ceviche -- lemony and cold. Of all the courses, this was my favorite, but also the most problematic.
The plates arrived all at once, with none of the waiters identifying what was what (I’m still unclear what that mystery vegetable was). We also were unclear if the calamari we’d ordered separately as an appetizer was the same calamari as the ceviche (it wasn’t). But the course was delicious, which perhaps was why we were so bummed out by the portions. While seven courses is certainly filling, we each had about two bites of the antipasti items. From the look of things, the antipasti for eight could have been the antipasti for two, and some of the items were taken away before we were finished with them.
Next was a saucer of penne pasta with meat sauce. It was fine, but nothing I needed to finish.
For my entrée, I ordered the veal scaloppine. The meat was tender, coated lightly with flour, and covered with mushrooms in a Marsala sauce. It was tasty, though not necessarily better than any other veal scaloppine I’d had before (I preferred my friend’s veal piccata and its pleasant, lemony flavor). Most of the entrees came with potatoes and a boiled vegetable that was either bok choy or kale (we couldn’t decide which) and they each served their purpose: a starch and something green. Other entrees at the table were the gnocchi, the pork chop, and the (somewhat greasy) halibut. I tasted each of them, and all were perfectly good. In fact, “perfectly good” is a fair assessment of Caesar’s food as a whole -- nothing surprising, just solid fare that one would expect from an old style Italian family restaurant.
Spumoni and coffee ended the meal. The spumoni was fine (Dreyer’s?) and the coffee was predictably mediocre.
The service was good, if a little frenetic, which I didn’t really mind. Given the chaos in the dining room (the place was packed), I was impressed that our waiter was able to maintain his charming demeanor, and after initially forgetting our calamari appetizer, he brought it to us on the house.
Though a bit pricey for what you get (about $50.00 a person), it might be fun to return with a large group of friends. The food at Caesar’s is fine, but it’s not the reason to come; there’s better to be had in North Beach or the Mission, and you can avoid the schlep to Caesar’s Fisherman’s Wharf location.
For me, Caesar’s is about atmosphere: the good bustle of multi-ethnic and multi-generational diners -- many of whom seemed like regulars -- celebrating birthdays and anniversaries. The waitstaff was friendly, conversational, even a little theatrical in the moments they stopped to chat. And the restaurant itself, with its vinyl booths, family photo-covered walls, and (what seemed to be) silk plants, felt authentic in its own way: it’s a restaurant that insists on being itself, which makes for a welcoming and comfortable dining experience for all who visit.