Spaghetti & Meatballs Tier List [San Francisco]

Sometimes I get spaghetti and meatballs in SF. This is my tier list.

Tier A
Italian Homemade (~$15) - ok, not technically spaghetti and meatballs because they don’t make spaghetti. Fettucine and meatballs. It’s fresh pasta made in house, and is cooked al dente and really good. The meatballs are reasonably tender and juicy. But really it’s all about that delicious fresh pasta. Also, the sauce is not watery and clings nicely to the pasta. The best spaghetti fettucine and meatballs I’ve had in the city

From the Hayes Valley branch:

Tier B
Tosca Cafe ($28)
I liked their spaghetti and meatballs but on a recent visit they’ve fallen off a bit. Still, al dente pasta and very tender small meatballs.

Most recent (a few months ago):

A previous visit (2021):

Tier C
Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack ($23)
Slightly past al dente spaghetti, tomato-ey sauce, pretty good meatballs (3). Also good garlic bread.

Tier D (aka Tier meh)
Original Joe’s ($25.95)
I like a lot of dishes at Original Joe’s, but their spaghetti and meatballs is kind of meh. The sauce (a meat sauce rather than a tomato sauce) was a bit watery. The noodles were cooked a bit past al dente. The meatballs were pretty good, tender, beefy, not too dense.

Harlequin ($20)
A new place in SoMa on 4th Street just off Market, where Keystone used to be. Similar to Original Joe’s - the noodles were a bit past al dente. And the sauce was kind of tasteless. Meatballs were fine, but a bit lacking in quantity.

Anyone have recommendations for spaghetti and meatballs in the city?


Nice thread :slightly_smiling_face:

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Former Delfina chef opens SF restaurant dedicated to affordable pasta

Fromm SFGate:

Pasta Supply Co., at 236 Clement St., is a new venture from celebrated chef Anthony Strong. The immediate attention grabber might be the deli display cases chock full of hand-cut pastas, for those looking to buy fresh pasta to cook at home. But the restaurant just started dinner service, much to my delight and that of my co-workers, who have been stalking the restaurant’s Instagram for months.

I haven’t been but got my attention.


I have never understood the appeal of Emmy’s. They should be Tier E in my opinion.

Sort of Bucca di Beppo without the schtick.

I do not have any suggestions, but I did save the Italian Homemade to my list of" Want to Go!" 's.
Thank you!


I’ve not been to Buca di Beppo but yeah Emmy’s is not one of the top contenders, my main issue with their spaghetti are the noodles which have been a bit overdone. And sometimes I like those overcooked noodles perhaps out of a sense of nostalgia for the overcooked spaghetti and tomato sauce I remember from some school fairs. I still put theirs a bit above the bottom two in my list though.

I went there once, I think for my daughter’s sixteenth birthday. Or maybe it was “The Stinking Rose” :thinking:. I recall we took a limo, I forgot my wallet, and the driver raced back to somewhere in Solano County and got it from my husband. I think we also saw “Beach blanket Babylon”.

Also, my husband does like spaghetti and meatballs, so I want to follow this thread.

Have you tried the Pasta & Meatballs dish only at the Italian Homemade Hayes Valley location?

I notice the quality can vary depending on location. In my experience, the North Beach locations’ meatballs haven’t been as good as Hayes Valley.


You know, I did find the fettucine and meatballs a bit better at the Hayes Valley location than at the North Beach one. I wonder though if it is partly due to a psychological effect from the paper plates at the North Beach location though :joy: vs. the Hayes location which uses proper dishes.

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Great thread! More of a sandwich thing… how do you rank Mario’s Bohemian Cigar?

Yeah, it’s more of a neighborhood spot than a destination place. The Dolly Parton pinball machine is currently out of service, but is is a nice appetizer before hitting the pinball buffet across the street at Outer Orbit.

I wonder if al dente needs to be specified when it’s paired with meatballs? I ate there a few weeks ago, and found my kids’ spaghetti (w/ meatballs) overdone for my taste. On the other hand, I was pleased that my puttanesca spaghetti was not only al dente but also with a bolder anchovy presence than I’d expect

Interesting! Will try to remember to request al dente the next time I’m there. I’ve only gotten the spaghetti and meatballs.

Not sure if this was for me but I’m definitely a fan of their meatball sandwich on Liguria focaccia.


Spaghetti Bolognese with Meatballs at the Gold Mirror in SF, an old-school Italian restaurant on Taraval in the Parkside neighborhood.

Al dente noodles in a meaty Bolognese sauce that was not watery, with two large pork and beef meatballs. I would put this in tier B-. The main minus for me was the meatballs could have used a touch more salt (or parm), but this was a solid spaghetti and meatballs.


I’ve actually only had this to go from both Hayes and North Beach, and Hayes has always been better :slight_smile:.

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I tried the 1 Franklin location, to go, Fettuccini with bolognese and meatballs. We didn’t care for the meatballs, really dense, not much flavor but the pasta was good.

I was surprised they refused to accept cash, only credit card.

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Cesario’s near Union Square

Reasonably al dente noodles and tender meatballs. Would have liked the sauce to have been a touch less thin and more flavorful, tier C for me.


Family’s spaghetti+meatballs aficionado with small stomach scarfed down large portion (no box). Everything we ordered tastes homemade (maybe not bread) and menu trumpets gnocchi:

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Next up, the spaghetti and meatballs from Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in North Beach, SF.

This was unsurprisingly very similar to what I remember of the spaghetti and meatballs at Tony’s sister restaurant Capo’s which is also in North Beach. It had thick al dente spaghetti, in a good amount of red sauce that tasted very meaty due to the addition of bacon and I believe sausage as well. The meatballs were straightforward - beefy and tender. I enjoyed it. I’m putting it in tier B+