San Francisco’s Mission District is awash in new restaurants and sparkly boutiques. There are places dedicated to obscure specialties like Midwestern pierogis, plenty of date-night dining rooms with low lighting and $30 entrées, and a few “cursed” sites that turn faster than a tilt-a-whirl.

Amid this flurry of change, Cal-Italian Delfina is going strong on 18th Street nearly 15 years after it opened. (It’s even birthed several spin-offs: Locanda and two locations of Pizzeria Delfina.) Stroll past Delfina in the evening and you’ll see that the shine isn’t gone. A hopeful few without reservations queue up for bar seats before the restaurant opens, and the dining room is always full of tourists and locals admiring the work of Beard-awarded chef Craig Stoll.

The menu changes seasonally, but a few evergreen standards abide. What are Delfina’s top-tier dishes? Here’s what Chowhounds say:

• Spaghetti with plum tomatoes is straightforward but perfect; same goes for the olive oil mashed potatoes.

• The rich, substantial ragu cures what ails you on foggy nights.

• Protein-wise, duck and quail are always the best choices, Frosty Melon says.

Delfina [Mission District]
3621 18th Street, San Francisco

Discuss: What to order at Delfina

Photo by Flickr member SanFranAnnie under Creative Commons

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