Cinqueterre: A Few Names, But One Fantastic Eatery

Their sign says Cinque Terre Restaurant. Their business cards say Ristorante Cinqueterre. Of course, they mean the same thing, but a business shouldn’t make things harder for the folks calling 411.


But trust me – this place is worth the effort.

I’d meant to rave about Cinque Terre after my first visit, but didn’t. After last night, however, I can confirm that this place is one of North Beach’s finest restaurants and, sadly, one of its least crowded, which belies the quality of the food, service, and experience.

Located at 641 Vallejo, just off Columbus, Cinqueterre is just a few doors off the heavily beaten paths of North Beach, but where tourists seldom venture, locals will find a hidden treasure of a restaurant with a menu ranging from traditional gnocchi to some very unusually adorned pastas.

The interior is a festive orange and tan with photos and items from the stunning, cliffside Italian region that gives the restaurant its name. The waiters are Italian, friendly, attentive, and eager to recommend their favorite dishes and wine pairings.

Speaking of dishes – on my first visit, I had the Cannelloni All’Asitce, a crepe-like pasta stuffed with Maine lobster in a zucchini and sundried tomato saffron bechamel sauce. It was magnificent. Last night, I went for the Penne Giovanna, dressed in a shockingly green spinach cream sauce with pine nuts. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce, while still plenty creamy, was filling without putting me in an immediate food coma. My Dad, who searches the world for gnocchi as good as my grandmother used to make, was quite pleased with the offerings there.

Though the food is excellent, try to keep yourself from clearing your plate if it means you won’t have room for dessert. No North Beach Restaurant opens without its own take on Tiramisu, and Cinqueterre’s version is light, generous, and perfect for sharing with other, nearly overstuffed, dinner mates. Hopefully, however, you’ll have brought enough people to also get the espresso flan which is unlike anything you’ve ever had – it’s absolutely the best thing to ever come on a chocolate-sauce drizzeled plate – smooth, creamy, original, and complex.

Finish your meal with a cordial of limoncello or a strong italian coffee and then immediately call your friends and tell them to give this find the business it deserves. It’s just that good.

Cinqueterre Ristorante – 641 Vallejo Street (at Columbus), 415-402-0895, entres range from $10-$20, wines by the glass and bottle from $6 (glass)- $25 (average, bottle).

4 Comments so far

  1. Andy Martinez (unregistered) on June 8th, 2005 @ 4:14 pm



    Santo & Mossimo were awesome!!!! I would go back just for their great service.

  2. Jane Campbell (unregistered) on June 9th, 2005 @ 8:12 pm

    Cinque Terre is a delight. Managing Partner Santo Esposito raises the experience to another level with his graciousness, Italian charm, and attentive eye. The food is delicious featuring extremely fresh seafood, fish, and all ingredients! They also make the best thin crust pizza I’ve had since moving to San Francisco last year. Prices are very affordable with a wine list shaped by Esposito’s palate.

    They’ve recently added another wonderful element

  3. Carolina (unregistered) on July 28th, 2005 @ 12:46 pm

    This restaurante is awesome. My boyfriend and I live about five blocks from it and we found it quite by accident. Trully, Santo, the owner, is at a loss when it comes to location, most people hardly venture off Columbus, but the locals most definitely have a secret haven of the best italian food I have tasted in North Beach. The Spaggetti Colombo is my favorite, and the price is super convenient.

    I recommend this restaurant to everyone I know. Forget the trendy restaurants on Columbus, forget Cafe Bocce (one of my greatest food and service disappointments) and come help out bring this restaurant to the place of fame it trully deserves.

    Santo always has a special something courtesy of the house up his sleeve too, if you become a regular. Leave space for the Tiramisu.


  4. Elise (unregistered) on September 5th, 2005 @ 11:28 am

    We walked past Cinque Terre a dozen times (after eating elsewhere) before we thought to go in BEFORE dinner. I have to agree that the Penne Giovanna and crab with pasta in red sauce (can’t remember the proper name) were absolutely fantastic, and the tiramisu was unbelievable, the best I’ve ever had, no exageration. The service was unparalleled. We’re going to have to go back at least 5-6 more times just to try everything once. I had such a hard time choosing from the menu because there were so many good thigns. It sounds like a lot of exageration, but really, it’s that good.
    I know that we will enjoy this local gem, but I’d like MORE poeple to enjoy it, so we don’t have to worry about it going away! On a Friday evening, there were only 8 customers during a 90 minute period.

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