Romance and Magic




San Francisco is a city with amazing restaurants. From Chinese to Italian, food in the city by the bay is extraordinary. This is one of my favorite places to wander about, walk and work up an appetite to dine.


Getting away with my wife recently, I was in the mood for romance.  With the fast paced life we live, we just wanted to find a place that was special. We wanted a place to relax and experience fine dining. We found that at Acquerello on Nob Hill.


The warm colors, inviting décor and overall feel of the room make for a romantic dining experience. Acquerello is one of the most loving dining places in the San Francisco area according to several lists on the Internet.


A friendly greeting meets you at the door and you move inside to the main dining room. Colors of orange and rose warm you, as service begins. Acquerello is formal, yet without pretentiousness. There is a dress code, but it’s relaxed.

Most male diners wore jackets and women have the chance to dress up. Some younger diners and a party of executives dressed without jackets, though none were super casual. 


Tasting menus are popular, allowing diners to sample a wide variety of dishes. We selected a seasonal and classic tasting. Wine pairings accompanied each dish, adding the perfect touch to complete each taste.


Service is tricky at fine dining establishments. The reason is due individual preferences. I personally like interaction with serving staff, to learn more about the food served. I don’t enjoy hovering service with someone always standing by to clear a plate, often before I’m finished.


I’m glad to say the service at Acquerello is outstanding, without that starched formal service found at some specialty restaurants. Attentive, friendly, informative, humorous and not intrusive is the service key at Acquerello. Heading service is proprietor Giancarlo Paterilini. Friendly, positive and insightful, he conducts the dining room like a maestro at a concert.


Wine service is impeccable. Rafael is a young Sommelier who gave up corporate life to follow his passion. His knowledge is amazing and his enthusiasm is contagious.


Our overall dining experience was amazing. The delicate tastes perfectly offset by the wine pairings made this one special evening. We tasted a variety of dishes, so I’ll highlight some of our favorites.


I love champagne and sparkling wines. The classic tasting was off to a great start with a glass of Rotari, Trento Rose´Brut NV. This is a fun wine, with a fresh fruity nose and taste. Small bright bubbles indicate the care the wine maker has put into this wine. As a rose´, it has a slight pink blush, which is also fun. A side note on the Rotari, this is a very well priced wine ideal for celebrations.


A cauliflower budino with sharp cheddar, broccoli and Brussels sprout leaves was next. A budino usually is a sweet pudding or custard served as dessert. The creamy texture of the pudding with a mild cauliflower flavor and the sharp cheese is a great combination. The lightly blanched brussel sprouts are a bright green against the muted budino color.


Lobster panzerotti was next, served in a lightly spicy broco preparation with Diavolicchio. Panzerotti is pasta stuffed with a meat, fish or vegetable. It looks like thin large ravioli and sits in the broco. The broco is a light broth, yet full of flavor. The heat (Diavolicchio) comes from chilies used in Italian cooking.


I liked the pairing with Cantina Valle Isarco, Sylvaner Valle Isarco ‘Aristos. The slight sweetness of the wine is nice against the spicy broth and sweet lobster.  


A truffle stuffed chicken breast with leek custard, potato gratin and shaved Cremini mushrooms was perfect for my wife.


To finish the tasting is a bourbon Carmel semifreddo. This is a semi frozen custardy dish drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce and dusted with Amaretti crumbs.  This is fabulous.


The seasonal tasting also begins with a sparkling wine.  Emmanele Scammacca, Vino Spumante Rose´Brut ‘Murgo 2009 is also a fun wine. With fruit in the nose as well as a strong citrus flavor, a great starter to a meal and would be good with a sweet dessert as it’s not overly sweet.


The wine paired with house-cured salmon as the first course is wonderful. The salmon features a lemon-scented mascarpone.   


One of the most creative dishes on the menu is the Cuttlefish “tagliantelle.” It’s outstanding. Tagliantelle is pasta, shaped like a flat noodle.  In this dish, the cuttlefish body or tube looks like the taliantelle. Accented with capers, lobster and agretti, the dish is savory. An interesting new taste to me was the agretti. This herb looks like dill, but has a flavor close to arugula with a slightly grassy flavor.


Squab breast served rare is wonderful. Many places overcook game birds and Acquerello does not. The fig compote, rich and sweet offers to balance to the dish.


Voliero, Rosso di Montalcino 2009 was nice with the gaminess of the squab. Full bodied, it has a big black cherry depth, with a hint of oak.



Finishing the Seasonal tasting is a Chocolate Pane di Genoa, with thyme gelato and anise-cinnamon pears. The gelato goes wonderfully with the cake.


Acquerello is an outstanding dining establishment. Impeccable service, a modern twist on traditional Italian fare and a beautiful venue, is a must visit dining experience when in San Francisco. 

Mark Alyn

As a host, reporter and writer Mark has talked about and scribbled about food, wine and travel. He has appeared on TV, the Internet and radio talking about trends in these fields. And he has written numerous features about them as well. Mark was one of the first to feature food topics on the radio in Los Angeles and Memphis. He has interview world-class chefs (His favorite being the late Jul...(Read More)

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