Pesce, San Francisco

The concept of aperitivi and the free food that comes with it is very clear in my mind, but in Italy I have never had cicchetti, the Venitian version of tapas, small dishes fit to share with friends over a nice bottle of wine. However, Pesce on Polk has done a great job at importing the concept, so even those of us who are not from Veneto can enjoy these delicious, mostly fish-based bites!

Pesce is a welcoming little spot on Russian Hill, with a small dish menu featuring not-so-small dishes served in quantities perfect for sharing. At 6 o’clock on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the prosecco bottle that we ordered called for some sort of finger food to cushion the bubbles. So, here come the cicchetti.

I often complain about the fact that I find the large fishes common to the Pacific just too plain. I love the pesce azzurro typical of my native Adriatic Coast, and I gravitate toward smaller fishes when I see them on the menu, with sardines, alici (white anchovies) and octopus being my favorite items. Hitting all three at Pesce was definetly a plus! So, we started with house smoked salmon on crostini, which was too overpowered by the wasabi butter (in an Italian restaurant? Really?) to be worth of notice. HOwever, everything else was stunning.

The grilled sardines with pickled vegetables were delicious, but the alici bruschette were memorable: wonderful pickled white anchovies with red peppers and olives, on lightly toasted bread- yum!

At this point, smitten by the selection, we continued on to the warm dishes. The lukewarm octopus salad is a staple of Adriatic ports- and although this was not the best rendition, it was still a good dish. My favorite though was the risotto with black squid ink and calamari- while not a “classic” preparation (butter and parmigiano? Never had them in a fish dish!), it was deliciously good!

2227 Polk St
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 928-8025

3 Responses to “Pesce, San Francisco”

  1. Hi Vanessa,

    Since I am from Veneto, your review brought back many good memories. I’ll like to add more color, even though, not being from Venice proper, I am a “foresto” (foreigner) myself.

    First, tapas gotta be a Spanish version of cicchetti. But that was obvious. Cicchetti are eaten at a “bacaro”, which is the Venetian version of an osteria (or the other way arond). Often times, groups of friends roam several “bacari” in a night (or day or both), in a so-called “Bacaro Tour”. You often just order a carafe (or two, three, four…….), sit wherever you find place and enjoy. The real bacaro is very cheap (yes, you can eat well and very cheaply in Venice) and rarely do you find tourists there. Proficiency in the Venetian dialect is required to order (or proficient friends).

    You can’t drive in Venice (you can’t even ride a bicycle!), so, unless you have your own boat, you need not worry about finding a designated driver. All you need is to find a way to get home. It is perilous at times, since the way is always tortuous, the “campi” look all the same at night and you can’t go straight anyway. And if you did, water is waiting for you (it’s a long story and, by the way, the same reason for which most bridges connect “calli” that do not end in front of each other). Like pigeons, Venetians always make it back, walking! It just takes longer than one would like.

    Thanks for the good memories you brought back!

  2. OMG grilled sardines! I love sardines but I’m never would’ve thought of them as a dish! I love the concept of octupus salad too! YUM!

  3. Isn’t Pesce a really great little spot?!

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