I dont think there is a restaurant in San Francisco where you will get a more genuine, warmer welcome than by Mark Bechelli part owner of the Flower Market Café. It is one of the few places that I was really made to feel at home and part of the family.
Add to that
- some of the best traditional Italian-American food in town
- a restaurant that amazingly accommodates the following equally well: families with children, the single diner, a couple on a date and large groups celebrating an occasion
- 150 free parking spaces surrounding the restaurant
If you are familiar with Bechellis on Chestnut or the Flower Market Café for breakfast you can expect the same type of quality and value. This isnt a place where youll get the trend of the moment food. It is just consistently good, satisfying comfort food.
At night, the white table cloths and candles come out. The lights are dimmed. Theres Sinatra playing gently in the background.
The meal starts with crusty sourdough bread accompanied by bowls of oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
For dinner one night, I had
- The mixed green salad with fresh feta cheese and roasted pine nuts lightly tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. The mild feta cheese was excellent.
- Lightly battered butterflied prawns. This is the chefs specialty. I would not have ordered it myself because the large prawns are sautéed with a garlic lemon butter sauce. However, Mark highly recommended it. It was worth every calorie. The shrimp was tender and the sauce reminded me of many of the great seafood dishes that I had growing up in New England. Lots of butter with lots of good seafood. This dish came with asparagus spears and roasted potatoes.
For desert I had one of the best New York style cheesecakes in the city.
To keep things honest, Im admitting the cheesecake and a glass of port were complementary.
I visited the café two years ago when they first started serving dinner. I was the only person in the restaurant. The food was good enough that I remember what I had two years later - the salmon and the sautéed mushrooms. However I noticed driving by that there were more people in the restaurant, so I gave it another try. After chatting with Mark, I think the cheesecake and port were a welcome back.
What did stand out on that first visit, as on this visit, was how really warm and friendly the staff were. This restaurant reminded me of one of the best restaurant experiences I had in Rome. Everyone in the place felt like friends being invited over to dinner. It was my birthday and everyone sang the Italian version of happy birthday to you. The memory brings a warm glow.
On the night I visited, there were a few birthday celebrations. Mark mentioned that the chef sang opera. The whole restaurant joined in with a chorus of happy birthday for the celebrating table.
The next night I placed a take-out order of fried calamari and the vegetable pizza. I had a Flower Market craving.
It was a huge order of calamari coated in Italian bread crumbs. Two mild sauces came with the calamari - classic cocktail and tartar. The order was big enough for four to share as an appetizer. I confess I ate it all myself.
While the vegetable pizza wasnt New York style, it had a crust that stood up well to the topping of tomato sauce, mozzarella, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, red onions, tomato and Portobello mushrooms. The next day the crust was still crisp. I especially enjoyed the juicy mushrooms. The menu suggests sharing the pizza as an appetizer. My opinion is that this is dinner for two people. This is serious pizza.
This is a large restaurant with high ceilings. I think that is why it accommodates large parties and families so well without losing its romantic feeling. The noise level remains low. There were a few families with children. There are many child pleasing Italian dishes as well as burgers. Also noticed a few Italian families on each visit. Always a good sign in an Italian restaurant.
The wine list is modest, but pairs well with the food and the bartender took pride in his selections. I ordered the Wild Horse Pinot Noir which was nice with the pizza. The champagne by the glass is Korbel Brut and is only 3.75.
Theres a intimate bar in the corner. Theres a list of special bar drinks like the Alize in Wonderland, and some with ice cream like the Bacci Ball.
Since the restaurant has lots of parking and can accommodate up to 300 (with an outdoor patio), it is also a great place to consider for an event.
Located on sixth street, it is relatively close to the ballpark.
This is a great place to take out of town relatives that may not enjoy trendy places. I think they would be impressed by the welcome they receive and the well-prepared food.
Its like the Cheers theme song
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
And they're always glad you came
It was one of the more pleasant evenings in a long time.
The link to information about the restaurant and menus is below.