For anyone who has traveled to Italy and craves the same quality of food and attentive service that one so often finds there, don’t worry: you can experience some of the best Italian food west of Italy in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood at a restaurant called, E` Tutto Qua, which translates to “It’s All Here”. Owner Enzo Pellico has brought his recipes (and several of his family members) from Italy and anyone who visits his warm, energetic restaurant will feel transported to Rome for the evening. I first visited E` Tutto Qua about 6 or 7 years ago, and it immediately became, and has remained one of my top two or three restaurants in San Francisco.
Enzo once told me that when he opened the restaurant, he had only one rule for the staff. “I told them to go out on the floor and have fun, because if they are having fun, the customers will too!” His strategy has worked well, because E` Tutto Qua is a really fun place to dine. The restaurant has become like my version of Cheers, because here, EVERYBODY knows my name. I can barely walk through the door before the entire restaurant staff is shouting, “Eh! Matteo!” and coming up to give me a hug. One time a friend of mine was making a reservation for us, and used my name, “Matteo”, and the person taking the reservation immediately asked, “OUR Matteo?” They make me feel like family. On a typical night, Andrea, Enzo’s nephew mans the door trying to lure customers in, and periodically the entire staff swarm around someone’s table to sing “Happy Birthday”, sometimes in Italian, sometimes in heavily accented English, but always with great enthusiasm and gusto!
Italians tend not to be very adventurous when it comes to dining out while they’re on vacation and are far more likely to gravitate to Italian restaurants than to try local cuisine. They also want authentic Italian food and seem uneasy about Italian restaurants in the USA. Several of my Italian friends who’ve visited me in San Francisco have given E` Tutto Qua their highest praise. My friend Claudia said that although she grew up eating her dad’s cooking (he owned a restaurant in the Veneto), the pizza at Tutto Qua was the best she’d ever had! I have to agree that even in Italy, I have rarely tasted anything that comes close to Enzo’s amazing, paper thin, crispy Roman style pizza. It makes a great appetizer to share among two or three people.
Although I have favorites on the regular menu, like Ravioli di Castagne (stuffed with chestnuts in a sage and butter sauce) or the Bucatini Amatriciana, a hearty Roman dish of a thick spaghetti with onions, tomato and pork cheek, I’ve learned (with a little chiding from Andrea) that the specials – homemade pastas and risotto – are outstanding. Frequently there is a special seafood pasta with saffron, and lduring my last visit I had a spinach fettucine with mushrooms, pancetta, peas and a cream sauce. Era perfetto… perfect!
Among their second courses are dishes like Chicken Involtini, stuffed with pancetta, fontina cheese and spinach or an amazing stuffed pork chop with fried potatoes. All of this is served with delicious bread, and there are fantastic desserts that should not be passed up, not matter how full you are. My favorites are the homemade Tiramisu and the Souffle` al Cioccolato. It really IS all here… E` Tutto Qua! Tell the boys that Matteo sent you!