Devotees of chef-owner Suzette Gresham-Tognetti's high-end but soulful Italian cooking have swooned for years over her incomparable Parmesan budino (pudding) as well as the ridged pasta with foie gras and truffles. The latter dish, even with the California ban on foie gras, is still a favorite—Tognetti's chef de cuisine Mark Pensa has created a faux foie that is a dead ringer for the real item. Classics pepper the menu but there are also some cutting-edge touches, techniques, and flavors. Dinners are prix-fixe, with three ($82), four ($96), or five ($110) courses and at least six choices within each course. Tognetti also tempts with a seasonal eight-course tasting menu ($145). The cheese course is not to be missed, with rare cheeses from Piemonte, and other regions, rolled tableside. Co-owner Giancarlo Paterlini oversees the service and his son Gianpaolo presides over the roughly 1,900-bottle list of Italian wines. The room, in a former chapel, with wooden vaulted ceiling and terra-cotta and pale-ocher palette, is refined but never stuffy—and neither is the service. Every member of the dining staff is honest and welcoming, knowing that many people here are celebrating special occasions. They will make it a night to be remembered. This true San Francisco dining gem is worth every penny.
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