San Francisco Restaurant Review: Fior d’Italia, America’s Oldest Italian Eatery

Fior d’Italia is a popular Italian eatery in the heart of North Beach in San Francisco, a.k.a. “Little Italy”. Located in a heritage structure with a history of more than 110 years, it serves classic Italian cuisine in elegant surroundings.There is live music two afternoons a week.

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Fior d’Italia is reputedly the oldest Italian restaurant in the United States. It is also one of the most popular Italian eateries with old-time San Franciscans.

The menu runs from hot and cold antipasti to soups and salads, fresh pasta and dry pasta, risotti, meat, veal, chicken, game, fish, and vegetarian.

Attracted by the sounds of Dixieland jazz, I had cocktails and snacks with an old friend shortly after checking into the Sam Remo Hotel.

We returned two nights later for a mouth-watering dinner.

Fior d’Italia is located on the ground floor of the San Remo Hotel, which dates back to 1906.

The historic hotel was originally built to house workers contracted to rebuilt the city following the 1906 earthquake as well as fishermen and workers working in the nearby Ghiradelli  Chocolate Factory.

The Sour Dough French Bread …

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Sour Dough French Bread – the first item to arrive on the table after we sat down was sour dough French bread, and it was every bit as good as I remembered.

There is something in the air or the water in San Francisco that gives the French bread baked there its special taste and texture.

It is said that if the exact same ingredients and method are used anywhere else, the bread won’t taste nearly as good.

The Cold Antipasti  …

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Antipasti Freddi – we started with the Prosciutto con Trutta di Stagione, or Prosciutto with Seasonal Fruit (US$15), which turned out to be two of my favourite fruits – cantaloupe and seedless red grapes, as well as a scattering of green olives.

This was an excellent starter. The cantaloupe was perfectly ripe, and the prosciutto was pure bliss.

The Hot Antipasti …

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Antipasti Caldi – Gamberoni Cesta, or prawns wrapped in pancetta with garlic and olive oil (US$17), followed.

The prawns and pancetta doused with freshly squeezed lemon juice offered a perfect balance.

The Salad …

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Insalate – our salad was Insalata Lasttuga Romana, or hearts of Romain with gorgonzola cheese (US$16).

I’m not a big fan of romaine lettuce, but I’ll make an exception. The lettuce, cherry tomatoes, black and green olives, gornonzola cheese, and Italian oil and vinegar dressing were a flawless combination.

The Lasagna …

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Lasagna Bolognese al Forno – for our pasta, we ordered layered pasta with a ragu of meat sauce (US$17).

This was a simple and perfectly executed lasagna.

The Meat Course …

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Carni – we our main course we ordered Sella D’Agnello al Forno, or Roasted Rack of Lamb with Rosemary Essence (US$38).

The lamb was beautifully presented and mouthwateringly delicious.

The Dessert …

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Dolci – for dessert, we had the spumoni ice cream.

Haven’t had spumoni ice cream in years, and it brought bad fond memories.

The Ambiance …

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Fior d’Italia occupies the ground floor of the San Remo Hotel, a historic hostelry built following the Great Earthquake of 1906 to house workers that were employed to rebuild the devastated city.

With windows on two sides, the elegant dining room is bathed in sunlight all afternoon long.

There is a bar clad in dark would on the other side of the building.

The Verdict …

The surroundings were elegant, the service was friendly yet professional, and the food was outstanding.

I’ll give Fior d’Italia two enthusiastic thumbs up!

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Where

Fior d’Italia – 2237 Mason Street, San Francisco, California. Tel: (415) 441-8774.

This is the 10th in a series on my epic journey, 70 Days Across America>>

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