About Il Fornaio - Palo Alto

520 Cowper Street
Palo Alto, CA 94301
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Il Fornaio means "The Baker" in Italian. This award-winning restaurant offers an authentic and unique dining experience. Specialties include wood-fired rotisserie and grilled meats, poultry and game; housemade pastas; pizzas from an oak wood burning oven; fresh salads and housemade soups; a wide variety of desserts; and fresh baked bread made daily from scratch. Winner of the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 2007.

Dining Style:
Casual Dining

Cuisines:
Italian

Hours of Operation:
Breakfast: Monday - Friday: 7:00am - 10:30am, Saturday - Sunday: 8:00am - 11:00am; Lunch: Sunday - Saturday: 11:30am - 5:00pm; Dinner: Sunday - Thursday: 5:00pm - 10;00pm, Friday - Saturday: 5:00pm - 11:00pm

Cross Street:
Hamilton

Dress Code:
Casual Dress

Price Range:
$30 and under

Payment Options
AMEX, Carte Blanche, Diners Club, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Phone Number:
(650) 853-3888

Website:
http://ilfornaio.com/

Catering:
Off-site catering available. Please contact Event Coordinator for more details.

Parking Details:
Valet parking is available for $10. In addition, there is also the hotel parking lot, as well as a public lot available.

Public Transit:
Cal Train

Executive Chef:
Michele Godina

Additional:
Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, BYO Wine, Cafe, Corkage Fee, Counter Seating, Full Bar, Happy Hour, Non-Smoking, Outdoor dining, Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wheelchair Access, Wine

Private Dining

Celebrating 20 years in downtown Palo Alto, Il Fornaio offers 2 private dining rooms and a heated, covered, garden Piazza. Banquet menus for large parties features the best of Il Fornaio's authentic Italian cuisine and Chef Luigi's signature dishes.

Il Fornaio - Palo Alto Ratings and Reviews

5
4
3
2
1

4.2

Overall Rating

based on recent ratings
food

3.9

service

3.8

ambience

4.0

value

3.7

noise

Moderate

90% would recommend it to a friend

Special Occasion (23)
Good for a Date (22)
Business Meals (21)
See All
Creative Cuisine (20)
Casual (20)
Great for Lunch (19)
Family Style (17)
Open Kitchen (17)
Good for Groups (16)
Wood Oven (15)
Comfort Food (15)
Good for Birthdays (15)
Good for Anniversaries (15)
Cozy (12)
Fit for Foodies (12)
Healthy (10)
Authentic (10)
Neighborhood Gem (10)
Notable Wine List (9)
Great for Brunch (9)
Great for Outdoor Dining (8)
Quiet Conversation (8)
Sunday Lunch (8)
Bar Seating (8)
Seasonal (7)
Tasting Menu (7)
Good Vegetarian Options (7)
Kid-friendly (7)
Worth the Drive (6)
Fun (6)
Pre/post Theatre (5)
Romantic (5)
Local Ingredients (4)
Private Room (4)
Modern Decor (4)
People Watching (4)
Gluten Free Options (4)
Disabled Access (3)
Afternoon Coffee (3)
Hot Spot (2)
Quick Bite (2)
Happy Hour (2)
Handcrafted Cocktails (2)
Fireplace (2)
Scenic View (1)
Historic (1)
Outstanding Value (1)
Afternoon Tea (1)
Organic (1)
Great Beer (1)
Late-night Find (1)
Paleo Friendly (1)
Dining Occasion:
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1785 reviews
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Tagliatelli was just okay and not partic ...

 
 (New York Area)·Dined 3 days ago

Tagliatelli was just okay and not particularly warm. Bread was fine. Service was slow -- I think the waiter forgot about us after he greeted us. We waited 15 minutes to order a drink, then waited again to order.

Tags: Wood Oven
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food3
ambience4
service2
value4

I love Il Fornaio. We have gone there ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined 3 days ago

I love Il Fornaio. We have gone there many times for family celebrations. It saddens me not to rate this experience highly. We went for our 49th anniversary and hoped for a leisurely delicious meal, not one that I had to prepare for a change.

As it turned out, there was a computer glitch which lost our order as well as others. Our waiter, who, on his second day of work, was working hard but was overwhelmed by the problems the glitch caused. Our dinner took forever to be served and did not feel like a celebration, but like a day at the office.

Tags: Cozy, People Watching
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food3
ambience5
service2
value3

one of our better visits. Good service a ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined 5 days ago

one of our better visits. Good service along with creative and good food. Like the featuring of different regions of Italy every month or so. Lombardi was one of the better ones. Excellent bread this evening.

Tags: Family Style, Special Occasion, Casual, Creative Cuisine, Kid-friendly, Tasting Menu, Great for Lunch, Good for Anniversaries, Open Kitchen, Comfort Food, Pre/post Theatre
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food4
ambience4
service4
value4

Good spot for dining. Consistent and wel ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 16, 2017

Good spot for dining. Consistent and well prepared food. We like the Taste of Festa regional menu.

Tags: Authentic, Family Style, Good for Birthdays
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food5
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We had a really nice dinner with great s ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 16, 2017

We had a really nice dinner with great service. Hanging with friends or with family.

Tags: Bar Seating, Casual, Family Style, Good for a Date, Great for Lunch, Handcrafted Cocktails, Good for Birthdays
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food4
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service5
value5

The food and the service were excellent. ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 14, 2017

The food and the service were excellent. Went for the monthly Festa that is always enjoyable.

Tags: Fit for Foodies, Creative Cuisine
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food5
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Not happy with the service. After sitti ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 11, 2017

Not happy with the service. After sitting at the table, found there was a hair on the small side plate. Indicated this to a waiter (or auxiliary waiter) and he reacted as if annoyed, picked up a plate from adjacent table and replaced ours without even mumbling a "sorry sir".

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food4
ambience2
service2
value3

This restaurant never disappoints us. A ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 9, 2017

This restaurant never disappoints us. Attentive staff. Creative items on the menu. Reasonable prices.

Tags: Comfort Food, Creative Cuisine
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food4
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I ordered the special, which was pasta w ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 2, 2017

I ordered the special, which was pasta with lobster and mussels in arrabiata sauce. The waiter explicitly recommended against ordering it, which I thought was strange, but since I seldom have the chance to order lobster I decided to get it anyway. The dish was a big disappointment. It was a whole lobster, split down the middle, which I knew ahead of time. This would have been fine if the restaurant had had the correct implements to extract the meat. It took them a while to find me a cracker to open the shells, and they had no small/thin fork for pulling out the meat. By the time I had extracted the meat (practically with my bare hands), the rest of the dish was cold. Although the description said the sauce would have mussels, the kitchen must have been short because it was a mix of mussels and clams. The sauce was bland and, although the waiter assured me it was made fresh in-house, the pasta tasted just like dried store-bought to me. For $35 I expected much better. I can recommend, however, the zabaione alla gritti dessert - it was very good.

Regarding service, our waiter was friendly, but he seemed rushed. We had a very long wait for them to bring the food. We witnessed a bus-boy spill a container of unwrapped toothpicks on the floor and then just pick them up and put them back in the container on the table next to us.

We've been coming to this restaurant for years, and every time I've told myself it will be better next time. I'm ready to give up and move on, though.

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food2
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We like Il Fornaio in other locations, s ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 1, 2017

We like Il Fornaio in other locations, so went here for late lunch as were in the area.

Food was very, very good as expected. Our waiter admitted to being "new" and had to be prompted several times by me for assistance (getting the coffee to the table I'd ordered 15 min before and then I had to ask for a refill later; not completely clearing the shared salad plates and utensils before entree was brought. Finally other than bringing the food, he never checked with us again on his own initiative.)

My husband has to go Gluten Free on pastas and pizza. Our waiter checked with the kitchen and then told us there was no gluten-free pizza. Mmmmm I thought I recall ordering GF Pizza Margherita at the downtown San Jose location. Maybe I'm wrong on this; can't recall but my husband and I both looked at each other? "Don't they have GF at San Jose?" we both said to each other, so why wouldn't Palo Alto have it too. We shared GF pasta dish instead.

Otherwise, lovely atmosphere, great food and we'd definitely go back.

Tags: Cozy, Comfort Food, Authentic, Neighborhood Gem
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food5
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We were there on New Year's Day for brun ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 1, 2017

We were there on New Year's Day for brunch. There were 20-25 in our party, originally our reservation was for 15. They did accommodate with a long table. We were there quite literally for an hour and a half with no food served. At that point 2/3's of our party left. The five of us who remained, our food took another 20 minutes, and it was barely warm. We had attended a wedding the night before, in the adjoining hotel. There were other smaller parties eating brunch, and they too experienced long waits and cold food. So I can't attribute it to the size of our party. The manager did apologize and comped our meal. But the delays were really above unreasonable and the service was not what I would have expected for such a nice, and established restaurant🙁

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From A-B to Z... Host(Hostess), seating, ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on January 1, 2017

From A-B to Z... Host(Hostess), seating, waiter (Dann), chefs etc, all made the experience on a Saturday night (New Year's Eve) excellent. Food, service was all great! Would come again.

Thank you Il Fornaio!

Tags: Handcrafted Cocktails, Comfort Food, Hot Spot, Family Style, Romantic, Authentic, Good for Anniversaries, Great Beer, Bar Seating, Local Ingredients, Open Kitchen, Special Occasion, Great for Outdoor Dining, Private Room, Great for Lunch, Fit for Foodies, Wood Oven, Notable Wine List, Casual, Fireplace, Worth the Drive, Cozy, Seasonal, Tasting Menu
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food5
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value5

This is an old Palo Alto restaurant that ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 29, 2016

This is an old Palo Alto restaurant that has maintained its standard of excellence in both food and service for more than half a century. Unconditionally recommended.

Tags: Family Style, Good for Anniversaries, Quiet Conversation, , Fit for Foodies, Great for Brunch, Sunday Lunch, Great for Outdoor Dining
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food5
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service5
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Our Christmas Eve dinner experience at I ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 25, 2016

Our Christmas Eve dinner experience at Il Fornaio was the worst in approximately 30 years of eating there. We were "greeted" by an unfriendly, poorly organized reception staff and a crowd of unseated diners jamming the entrance and surrounding the reception desk. The excuse for the disorganized scene was that a “large party" had overstayed. Forty-five minutes after our reservation time, we were perfunctorily seated after many new arrivals had come and left in disgust.

Then there was the meal. The waiter was pleasant, but did not know much about the menu offerings. The wine and antipasto were served quickly and enjoyed. The entrees, other than the pizza, were all a disaster. One entree was no longer available after the order was placed. A substitute order arrived late without any chicken in the chicken pasta, so the replacement was late as well. The salmon entree arrived cold and was sent back to be reheated. Even hot, it was disappointing - bland and unattractively presented. The risotto entree was served like a lump of brown dirt piled on the plate with no garnish. Grated parmesan was not offered and had to be requested after all the other issues were resolved.

The experience seemed to be the result of poor management: poorly trained, insufficient staff not committed to hospitality, especially on a holiday evening.

This meal was an expensive “total fail” and will cause many of us not to risk eating at Il Forniao again.

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food1
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Did not disappoint with Italian menu--I ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 25, 2016

Did not disappoint with Italian menu--I had a special with thinly sliced veal and mushrooms over polenta and it was delicious.

The one HUGE caveat, is there is outdoor patio seating with heat lamps and they do NOT disclose that when you make a reservation. It was a freezing December night and they originally had put us outside, but I refused and fortunately, we were put in another room (Siberia) but it was at least warm. Make sure you notify restaurant of where you would like to sit when you make a reservation!

Tags: Good for Groups
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food4
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The service and food were both horrible. ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 25, 2016

The service and food were both horrible. It took forever for us to get bread and water let alone order. Eventually our meal came but they forgot our salads first so we ended up cancelling them. Horrible dinner and even worse service!!

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Good food although by the time it finall ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 25, 2016

Good food although by the time it finally arrived it was just lukewarm. Service was extremely slow and spotty.

The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and good parking.

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food3
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I would have rated food 5 stars except t ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 25, 2016

I would have rated food 5 stars except that our food arrived at the table lukewarm.

Tags: Quiet Conversation, Cozy, Neighborhood Gem, Great for Brunch
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food4
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Six of the 8 of us ordered crab benedict ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 24, 2016

Six of the 8 of us ordered crab benedict however they made regular with ham instead so had to redo. It was delicious. Overall service was slow however we were feeling leisurely so it wasn't a problem on this day.

Tags: Good for a Date, Great for Brunch
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food4
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Our server was a nightmare. He was rude ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 24, 2016

Our server was a nightmare. He was rude to my 24 year old daughter. He seemed only interested in paying attention to the other tables and we had to continually ask another server for what we needed.

Tags: Great for Brunch
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food5
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service1
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Service poor by being slow, dishes being ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 24, 2016

Service poor by being slow, dishes being improperly explained, wrong wine being served, dinner slow being served, dishes not done at same time, one dish not being served warm. Just a terrible experience to have with two grown daughters being home for Christmas and friends visiting from Washington.

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food2
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Only Il Fornaio in PA can get away with ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 24, 2016

Only Il Fornaio in PA can get away with delivering poor food quality and keep existing. How can you allow the kitchen at an Italian place to be continuously unable to prepare the basics? Pasta undercooked, Potatoes basically raw, food cold. With this performance any other place would get out of business and finally make way to an offering that deserves to be paid for.

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The food was good, I have always loved t ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 23, 2016

The food was good, I have always loved this restaurant. Only complaint is I had to keep flagging someone down for my tea refills.

Tags: Great for Lunch, Modern Decor, Special Occasion, Cozy
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food5
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Good straight forward Italian food. Good ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 23, 2016

Good straight forward Italian food. Good downtown Palo Alto location with parking nearby.

Tags: Great for Lunch, Great for Outdoor Dining
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food4
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There four of us for lunch -- all forme ...

 
 (New York Area)·Dined on December 19, 2016

There four of us for lunch -- all former co-workers in a Silicon Valley high-tech company. This was a great choice for an informal lunch. Service was excellent and the overall atmosphere was conducive to our conversations. The menu had something for everyone and all were pleased with their selections. Two of us requested changes to the entrees as described on the menu and the kitchen met our requests perfectly.

We will be back.

Tags: Creative Cuisine, Quiet Conversation
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food4
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I normally rate Il Fornaio at least Very ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 19, 2016

I normally rate Il Fornaio at least Very Good but last night we went later than usual and they were out of some dishes (and tried to suggest some lame ingredient substitution) and one of the dishes we ordered wasn't prepared as described. But what we got was as usual very good!

Tags: Gluten Free Options, Good for a Date, Notable Wine List, Quiet Conversation, Open Kitchen, Fit for Foodies
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The food was fantastic! They even have ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 18, 2016

The food was fantastic! They even have quite a few gluten-free options. The only issue I had was that it was before 5 pm when we ordered (and not busy at all) and it took about 45 minutes to get our food. Once we got it, however, it was delicious!! I would definitely come here again and highly recommend it.

Tags: Special Occasion, Gluten Free Options, Good for Anniversaries, Business Meals
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food5
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we go here often and this last dinner wa ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 17, 2016

we go here often and this last dinner was even more outstanding than others in the past...pastas were creative and great...imagine goulash with fettucine in an italian menu....great waiter also...

Tags: Creative Cuisine
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food5
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Awful, just awful. 1.5hr wait for starte ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 16, 2016

Awful, just awful. 1.5hr wait for starters which didn't come out at the same time. 2hrs for main course. Brought incorrect wine to the table. Never again. Never had such poor service in a Palo Alto restaurant.

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food2
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I love Il Fornaio's. The food is always ...

vip
 (Denver)·Dined on December 15, 2016

I love Il Fornaio's. The food is always fresh and tasty.

Unfortunately, this last visit was not enjoyable. I am afraid there was an issue with the reservation. Mine and others were not really managed properly it seemed. The staff did attempt to work it out. I appreciated that.

Then, unfortunately again, the main courses took about 30 min to arrive after the appetizer. Service was polite and pleasant as always. The restaurant was busy and that is understandable this time of year. The slow service was unacceptable though.

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food4
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Our waiter was a bully - hovering over u ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 13, 2016

Our waiter was a bully - hovering over us, acting put out when we didn't order the pricey bottle of wine he suggested and even more annoyed that we didn't order a second bottle of the one we chose. There were four of us - we didn't want to get a dui Dude!

Food portions were small and not that good. Too bad as it used to be a go/to place but no longer.

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food3
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For our party of 10, the food arrived fa ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 12, 2016

For our party of 10, the food arrived fairly much at the same time which was great. The service was very good for this number of people with drinks refills, timing of courses etc. The one disappointing thing was that the dishes were so very small for the price. Other than the portion size, everything was good.

Tags: Special Occasion, Open Kitchen
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food4
ambience4
service4
value3

Great food!

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 11, 2016

Great food!

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Sophisticated dining without being pret ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 10, 2016

Sophisticated dining without being pretentious. Took our grandchildren there in the evening and they were taken good care with children's menu and supplies. Ample bread to start with and good Italian choice in the adult menu. Pizza was upper class in quality and waiter readily facilitated the shared pieces among us.

Tags: Creative Cuisine, People Watching, Neighborhood Gem
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food5
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service5
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I have been coming to this restaurant fo ...

 
 (Central Coast)·Dined on December 7, 2016

I have been coming to this restaurant for years -- decades, actually -- and perhaps that is the problem. I have watched it go steadily down hill. My dining experience on Wednesday (a birthday celebration) was a huge disappointment. Despite a reservation, we were seated in a distant corner of the restaurant which would have been better suited for storage space. Our waiter was disinterested in us and the food was mediocre at best. My entre tasted like it had been left over from the day before, then reheated and promoted as the daily special. I've given this restaurant more than enough chances to prove me wrong, but I keep leaving disappointed with all aspects of the experience. Now I think I've finally learned my lesson and will no longer be dining here. Sad.

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food1
ambience1
service1
value1

-always top notch and food is consistent ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 2, 2016

-always top notch and food is consistent and amazing.

Tags: Good for a Date
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food5
ambience5
service5
value5

A once iconic restaurant but the food an ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on December 1, 2016

A once iconic restaurant but the food and service have gone downhill over the years.

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food2
ambience4
service2
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Good selection of breakfast/brunch dishe ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on November 26, 2016

Good selection of breakfast/brunch dishes. Pleasant service and quiet enough that my elderly parents could join in the conversation.

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food5
ambience5
service5

To begin with we set a reservation for 8 ...

vip
 (San Francisco)·Dined on November 25, 2016

To begin with we set a reservation for 8:00pm and arrived on time. We approached the maitre de and his assistant and informed them that I had an open table reservations for 8pm. As usual I asked for my open table reservation and announced who I was.They both looked at us as though we were aliens newly arrived from Mars. Before they even responded another group came in after us for a party of six and they greeted them with acknowledgement and sat them down. Then they came back and talked about us right in front of us about where they could seat us. Then I piped up where is our table they asked us if we wanted to eat outside- I said no...5 minutes later they take us on a trip to the very back of the restaurant and there we sat for ten minutes watching the table of 6 who was seated before us get a waiter and bread etc...my wife was finally able to flag down a server who had not been assigned our table but nevertheless took care of us...he did a good job and we ordered and was served our dinner. However we noticed the Maitre D come back to our area with water to personally serve water to an adjacent table...he never came over to ask if we were ok and did we need anything? Incredibly bad service and rude to say the least. We also witnessed a a server bring back a tray of steaks etc. to our small area and perseverated over who to serve it to -never asking us if this was for us...this went on for over 5 minutes until this server figured out it was for a table in the back. This was supposed to be our thanksgiving dinner and a fun night out. And this restaurant was supposed to be highly rated? I don't know about that... and will never go back.

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The food was excellent. It was an authe ...

 
 (San Francisco)·Dined on November 25, 2016

The food was excellent. It was an authentic Thanksgiving meal.

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food5
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