For several years I've been meeting a friend at Caffe Puccini in North Beach every couple of months and walking from there to a restaurant for dinner. My friend refuses to go to any restaurant that has any degree of pretense about it, so the choices were always limited: Capp's Corner, Mario's, the Hunan being the usual spots.
But a while ago we started ordering dinner right there at the Puccini, and, damn, it's good! No one will ever accuse them of being cutting edge, but it's soulful, stick-to-the-ribs Italian like you just don't find any more. Tonight I had veal piccata--four pieces of nice veal scallopini, lightly floured with a bright lemon-caper sauce and some al dente veggies, plus a simple but decent salad for $14.99. My friend had the fettuccini with a fabulous, rich wild boar bolognese (the owner shot the boar himself). I think his was a dollar less, but didn't include the salad.
I've always thought of the Puccini as a cafe, but most of the people who came in were ordering food, and it all looked terrific.