i couldn't join the chowdown that was being lined up for this place, so when i heard of another group going when i was free, i decided to do the right thing.
let me just say, flat out, that the pasta was disappointing. i tried the carbonara, which came out in what would have to be described as a watery 'alfredo' sauce half drowning a slightly past al dente pile of what seemed like generic store bought linguini. the only redeeming quality to the dish was the pancetta itself.
i tried some of my friend's gnocchi in a 'pink' creamy tomato sauce, which was just ok. the gnocchi are slightly larger than what is normally seen, and a bit heavier than what i prefer. the sauce, again, was really rather lacking in flavor.
because they were so standard looking, i didn't try the salads, apps, desserts, or secondi. it's mostly a veal and chicken place. no osso bucco, no rabbit, no cioppino.
all that said, the place is actually charming. it's an urban oasis of old school warmth smack in the middle of the rambunctious mission dist. you are embraced by the soft lighting, opera pics, and genuine service. you can actually dine between domingo and pavarotti (or at least their signed pics. luciano apparently slurped through in 1989). and it somehow seems romantic and family oriented at the same time.
the prices are modest, the wine list actually had a nero di avola (& corkage was $12), and there is obviously an ageing but loyal following. but until the newish owner (albanian nephew of original, i heard?) finds his own love of opera, or food, or something, to reinvigorate the place, i'm afraid it is on a long slow descent into irrelevance. that would be a pity, since old school italian can be a genre worth preserving, especially in this hood, and especially when the original incarnation was apparently a destination worth seeking out.