A Taste of Italian Cuisine in San Francisco

Italian traditional dish of tagliatelle/fettuccine with ragout

If you’re strolled around North Beach in San Francisco, then you’ve been to the city’s Little Italy. The neighborhood is home to a large Italian-American population and is an essential stop on any San Francisco tour.

Historically, Italians were some of the first European explorers and settlers in California, with many Italian immigrants living in California by the 1880s. By the 1950s, the rise of Italian cuisine was evident in San Francisco, where restaurants began popping up in abundance. Today, you’ll have no trouble finding whatever Italian food you’re craving, be it pasta, pizza, or dessert. Here are some of our favorites:


Bolognese sauce, also known as ragu alla Bolognese, is a meat-based sauce that originated in the city of Bologna, Italy. It’s traditionally made with wine, milk, or broth as the cooking liquid, and contains aromatics like spices and fresh herbs. The result? A rich and creamy sauce that pairs perfectly with fresh tagliatelle.

The exact origins of Bolognese is up for debate in Italy, though it’s known that the first reference to it was in a Pellegrino Artusi cookbook in 1891. Today, it’s a popular sauce in many parts of the world, with different countries putting their own unique twists on it. In San Francisco, it’s not uncommon to find chefs experimenting with the classic recipe as well.

If you’re hoping to give it a try, Shef Francesca can help you out. A mother of five, Francesca grew up in Italy and learned traditional dishes from her family before moving to San Francisco. Her dishes are made with organic seasonal produce, and her Bolognese sauce is amazing on lasagna, other pasta noodles, or even on fresh bread!

Italian biscotti cookies on black baking sheet. Fresh baked cookies with nuts and dried cranberries.


Close your eyes and transport yourself to Italy, where you’re sipping a glass of sweet Italian wine. Now look next to your glass, where you’ll see a small plate of biscotti, a popular Italian cookie. Its dry, crumbly texture softens as you dip it into your beverage, making it the perfect complement to wine, coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

The word biscotti translates to “twice-baked,” and its origins can be traced to Ancient Rome. Due to its long shelf life, it was a convenient food for travelersn — Gaius Plinius Secundus (known as Pliny the Elder) once boasted that “they [biscotti] would be edible for centuries.” Biscotti re-emerged in Tuscany during the European Renaissance, and today, it’s found in many Italian cafes and restaurants, with many tasty variations to suit anyone’s taste.

Ready to give it a try? Order biscotti from Shef Jenny, who combines her Italian heritage with a Mediterranean twist. Her creativity can be seen across her entire menu on Shef, including in her white wine and fennel biscotti and her sweet and savory rosemary and golden raisin biscotti.

Piece of traditional italian dessert made of Lady fingers biscuits and mascarpone cream.


Ah, the classic tiramisu. This sophisticated dessert is all about the layers, consisting of a rich and creamy mascarpone cheese filling, coffee-soaked ladyfingers, and a dusting of cocoa powder.

Tiramisu, which translates to “pick me up,” originated in 1800 in the Italian city of Treviso. Some say it was invented by a baker looking to make a quick dessert for customers, while others say it was invented in a brothel as a way to give the clients energy. What we do know is that an old inn in Treviso, now the famous Le Beccherie restaurant, offered it on their menu, and it has been coined the birthplace of the dessert.

If you want to order freshly-made tiramisu, Shef Vanshi’s version won’t disappoint. It’s her favorite dessert, due to its velvety texture and bittersweet flavors, and she would be thrilled to share her love for Italian cuisine with you.

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