Since 1989 Acquerello has set the standard in San Francisco for classic Italian fine dining. Located in the Nob Hill neighborhood, the restaurant is known for its wonderful food, professional service, and incredible Piemonte-focused wine list—a rare combination that has led to a busy reservation system and numerous awards, including two Michelin stars.
The dining room exudes traditional, old-world refinement, with its vaulted wood-beam ceilings and dramatic flower arrangements that practically eliminate the need for other adornments. The food is the main attraction here, and Executive Chef Suzette Gresham is an expert in creating sophisticated dishes that convey simple elegance.
Restraint means that you have hit on something that is so delicious that it needs very little other stuff,” she says. “You have to know when to stop, so when someone is eating that dish, they realize that there’s something very special.”
Starting with exceptional ingredients—and knowing which techniques to use when preparing them—is also essential. “You try to find a way to make a dish shine,” Gresham says.
Acquerello’s Prix Fixe Menu includes both classic Italian dishes and contemporary interpretations of Italian flavors. Diners choose between three, four, or five courses, which may include Liberty duck cured under red wine pomace; Swiss chard and mushroom raviolo with brown butter and Balsamic vinegar; or perhaps olive-oil-poached ocean trout with butternut squash and pancetta.
The Seasonal Tasting Menu takes a more modern approach with inventive creations like grilled firefly squid with broccoli and saffron consommé; squab- and cabbage-filled cannelloni with morel mushrooms; and baked bufala milk ricotta with summer squash, cherry tomato, and basil. Each course is expertly paired with a different Italian wine.
Dessert is a celebration in itself, with house-made chocolates and delicate macarons offered each night. If your tastes lean toward the savory, opt for a tableside visit from Acquerello’s exquisite specialty cheese cart.
Reservations may be made up to three months in advance (the further ahead you plan, the better). Formal attire is requested, with jackets suggested for men, and while the gorgeous food presentations may tempt smartphone shutterbugs, patrons are asked to leave their electronic devices in pockets and purses. Part of the experience at Acquerello is simply to enjoy the moment.