Fior D’ Italia closed its doors in May 2012 to sad howls from the San Francisco culinary community. The restaurant was already venerable by then: For 126 years, it had served plates of pasta and veal to presidents and Pavarotti. It wasn’t a bad run for a place that got its start at a brothel in 1886.
But San Francisco only went without Fior D’ Italia for about six months. The restaurant reopened in December 2012, in the same spot below the San Remo Hotel on a quiet North Beach street. Regulars rushed up to the long dark bar near the entrance, while once again dapper waiters glided across the soft carpeted floor with platters of osso buco and zabaglione with berries.
Purists may maintain that the restaurant’s multiple changes of ownership, moves, and closures (due to fires, the 1906 earthquake, and financial turmoil in 2012) might disqualify it from the title of “America’s Oldest Italian Restaurant.” But the venue claims the name anyway. It might as well. From feeding San Franciscans in the wild Barbary Coast days, to pulling out soup kettles of minestrone to feed displaced citizens after the earthquake, the history of the restaurant and the city are entwined.
The restaurant offers a handful of items from its original 1886 menu, such as veal scaloppine (albeit at a price adjusted for inflation). The menu generally leans towards Northern Italy, where chef-owner Gianfranco Audieri hails from, and the petto di pollo Ligure is a particular favorite.
Know Before You Go
Fior D'Italia has been a popular restaurant for all sort of occasions since before you were born, so be sure to make a reservation.