My profound thanks to all the hounds whose input helped me with my long-distance planning of "visiting family" and rehearsal dinners mid-June in SF. Ristorante Ideale in North Beach was exactly right for our chatty, pre-wedding reunion of many sibs and their families. (Everybody kept asking me: how on earth did you find this wonderful place? Yes, I did credit Chowhound.) A long table was set up for us in the front room near the bar and we received attentive, friendly service. The most popular dishes were: the homebaked bread!, everything with mussels, and the melt-in-your-mouth tiramisu.
Our rehearsal dinner in 500 Jackson's Wine Cellar room was superb. We built the dinner choices for our guests from the restaurant's banquet menu and everyone was very pleased with the results. The proportions of food for every course were surprisingly generous. Best crab cakes I've ever eaten (high praise from someone who grew up near the Gulf Coast and lives two hours from Dungeness Spit). The ahi tuna was grilled to order, accompanied by tomatoes with a tasty olive tapanade and -- odd, but it worked nicely -- butter beans. Another favorite dish was their lobster-sweet potato bisque -- sweet and rich, though no lobster-chunks. Everyone who had the key lime pie loved it, but I succumbed to the fudgy chocolate cake instead, which was nice and nummy. Very attentive, I might even say courtly, service to our party (they worked around -- and with -- an extra-lively 6 year-old ringbearer beautifully). Yes, we were paying banquet prices, but we feel we got what we paid for and then some.
Best of all, you Chowhounds helped us avoid reliance upon the Wharf *and* develop a great working relationship with Muni Bus 30 and the streets of San Francisco!
(P.S., the wedding dinner near Mill Valley was catered by Insalata -- tasty Middle-Eastern spread with (as requested by bride and groom) light, scrumptious galettes in lieu of cake.)