Sodini's Bertolucci's Ristorante: Reviews

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Tortellini Con PestoCanneloniVeal Scallopini
Tortellini Con Pesto, Canneloni, Veal Scallopini


Tony Rivera
Name: Tony
Occupation: Fireman
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Ristorante
Reviewed Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Ristorante: Friday July 21, 2007

Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Restaurant is a throwback to the standard for family-owned and operated Italian-American restaurants. The restaurant is located in South San Francisco (finally a good reason to go there). There is a large free parking lot in the rear, and plenty of metered (until 6 pm ), street parking in the area. If you like mob movies (Goodfellas, Godfathers 1and 2, but not 3), you will think you are eating in one of the restaurants portrayed in those movies. There is an actual working fountain in the main dining room ). Anyway, back to the food: classic Italian American. I’m talking spaghetti with meatballs, chicken parmigiana, and a fat New York steak with ravioli on the side!

I went to Bertolucci’s on a Friday night, and the joint was packed. I was met at the door by the host, who looks like a knee-breaker for the syndicate. I didn’t have reservations, so he took my name and escorted me to the bar (I have always felt you can meet a higher quality of people at a bar ), so I bellied up. I ordered a cocktail and enjoyed the live piano music being played right there in the lounge. A few locals were dancing to the standards being sung by the piano player. I was in the middle of a conversation with the neighborhood garbage man, when my table was ready. I lucked out and was seated at a booth. I started out with a nice red wine, XY Zinfandel. My first course was Gnocchi Nostri (plump potato dumplings in rosy gravy), and it was excellent. The gnocchi, also known as Irish pasta, was perfection, not overcooked and with a dressing that was in balance (no heartburn). I used the French bread given to me to finish the sauce left on my plate.

The waitress was great, she stayed in tempo with me (kept my wine glass full) and handled her other tables proficiently. The host came over between courses and made sure everything was fine (this is what I’m talking about — taking care of the customers, not just standing around looking pretty, plus this guy looks like he’s tried everything on the menu). I told him I ordered the veal, he stated, “Great choice, that’s what I’m having tonight.” Just as quickly as my appetizer plate was bussed, my main course arrived. The plate was filled with large pieces of veal and mixed vegetables on the side (you can also opt for polenta with marinara as a side). The meat was tender and flavorful, the vegetables were freshly cooked (not murdered the day before on a steam table). The restaurant has other rooms used for banquets and gatherings, and that night a few parties were occurring during my meal. I finished off with a biscotti, homemade by the owner’s wife (do I have to say it?), and a coffee. I figured I should finish my conversation with the garbage man, so I went back to the bar. I sat down and ordered a sambuca with coffee beans (three, for good luck ). The owner walked over to the piano and began to sing, yes, sing, he was impressive, the bar loved it and so did I.

Sodini’s Bertolucci’s is a breath of fresh air. This is classic Italian-American cuisine with personality and punch. If you want a large trapezoidal plate with sauce dots made with from a squeeze bottle, and a meal stacked on top of itself, keep walking. Bertolucci’s has been at the same location since 1928, so they must be doing something right! I would return and would have a party here with one or a hundred of my best friends. The bang for the buck is the whole package: free parking, great food, live music, and an owner that interacts and entertains the customers. I give this place four meatballs!


Tuere Anderson
Name: Tuere
Occupation: Social Worker
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Holy Land
Reviewed Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Ristorante: Tuesday July 17, 2007

The baked polenta appetizer was perfect! It was creamy, but not mushy, with just the right amount of cheese, and the homemade tomato sauce was absolutely fresh and wonderful. The house salad of romaine lettuce (it was mostly hearts –yum!), beans, onion, tomato, and cucumber comes with housemade creamy Italian dressing. The dressing was good — neither too creamy nor too piquant — but the salad was a bit overdressed for my tastes. Other than that and that I would have liked a few more beans, it was good.

The linguine special with shrimp, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and mushrooms in a cream sauce was great! The noodles were nicely al dente and the flavors melded together very well. This lunch special came with a bowl of minestrone soup, which was nice: not too heavy, filled with beans, and fresh veggies, although a wee bit salty. The gnocchi with pesto was good, although there was WAY too much creamy pesto on the dish. I’m not sure if they make the gnocchi in-house or not; it was verging on too doughy, but I think was saved by being filled with pesto.

We opted to have the cannoli (they stuff the shells in the restaurant but don’t make them in-house) and the homemade biscotti for dessert. The cannoli was good, filled with mascarpone and topped with the canned cherries and the accompanying sweet syrup. Frankly, I think you can hardly go wrong with fried dough stuffed with sweet cheese! YUM! The biscotti was a perfect balance between crunchy and soft; you could tell that they made them earlier in the day. The coffee was strong, but not bitter, and was a nice accompaniment to the desserts.

The décor of the restaurant reminds me somewhat of a reception hall, with the open space and ample room for folks. You never feel too crowded but also don’t feel isolated from the other diners. I like the separation of the main dining room with the bar, which clearly has regular imbibers saddling up to it. I definitely liked the fact that this is a restaurant for the community. I observed waitstaff and patrons conversing in such a way as to demonstrate that they come very regularly.

The restaurant is easy to get to right off 280, and parking was great during the middle of the day. The service was fantastic and attentive; everyone was nice and timely with filling water, etc. The portions are great (we had leftovers) and a good value for what you get. I would definitely return to this restaurant, and would come more often if it were closer to Oakland.


Eric Swett
Name: Eric
Occupation: In-House Council for Steamship Company
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: B44 Catalan Bistro
Reviewed Sodini’s Bertolucci’s Ristorante: Tuesday July 9, 2007

Bay Area residents who drive along Highway 101 through South San Francisco have probably spotted the large Bertolucci’s sign near the highway many times, but haven’t had the occasion to stop in and explore. That sign promises an old-fashioned, unpretentious, Italian restaurant, San Francisco style. That is exactly what you get when you dine there.

When we drove up, a few local bikers were parking their motorcycles in front of the restaurant. We wondered if that was a good sign or a bad sign.

Stepping into the restaurant is like stepping back in time thirty years; although there are some faux 1930s style advertising poster reproductions that ruin the otherwise perfect 1970s vibe. There is a little fountain near the entrance separating the restaurant from a pleasant bar. The dominant color is red: red carpet, red tablecloths, red seats, and red-covered booths. This definitely not a chi-chi designer space. Tony Soprano’s father would have felt perfectly comfortable at Bertolucci’s.

The host was warm and welcoming, and so was the staff. We were seated promptly. The bread was fresh and good; a good clue to the quality of the food we would be eating.

In the 1970s a restaurant like this might well have served wilted salads and soggy pasta with mysterious bland sauces. Happily, this is not the case, if it ever was, at Bertolucci’s. The menu has the classic Italian-American choices — all the old standards. We ordered Caesar salads ($9.95) to start. The romaine was fresh, and the tangy dressing, homemade.

For main courses we ordered Beef Lasagna ($16.95), Tortellini Con Pesto (beef filled pasta rings, creamy basil and garlic sauce $15.95), and Veal Scaloppini served with polenta ($20.95). The pastas were good and not overcooked. The sauces were classic — certainly not inventive or unique — but that is not what the restaurant is about. The veal was also good, although a bit tough, with a lemony sauce. A side of vegetables served with the veal, chard with carrots and onions, had just the right amount of balancing bitterness, and was not overcooked or mushy.

The wine list was very limited, and in fact, disappointing. We drank a Melini Sangiovese, 2002 ($30.00), which was not particularly special.

For desert we had spumoni ice cream, which was delicious. Overall, the experience was very pleasant, and the food was good. The atmosphere is definitely 1970s, and so is the menu, but the food itself has kept up with the times. The service is attentive and welcoming. It is easy to understand the restaurant’s apparently devoted following and ongoing success.

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  • Mz T.

    I have not tasted the meals yet but the pictures made my mouth water! The tortellini in white sauce will be my choice for dinner. With any luck I will get a hug from the very handsome host!!!

  • http://greacen.com CG

    I lived in Boston before moving to the bay area 10 years ago. The first few times I saw Bertolucci’s sign from 101 I thought it was ‘Bertucci’s’ which is a big brick-oven chain on the east coast. I’m happy to read these positive reviews.

  • Stef & Andy

    My husband has lived in the Bay Area all his life and remembers eating at Bertolucci’s as a young child, but had not been back in many many years. After seeing a review on Check Please, we decided to check it out. We sat at a large booth in the bar area, which provided a quiet cozy feeling for our meal. Our waitress was very friendly and reccomended some dishes to us. I ordered the Chicken Sodini which is a pounded & grilled chicken breast topped with ham, mozarella cheese, and alfredo sauce. My husband ordered the pepper steak which was a NY strip topped with a peppercorn cream sauce. Both dishes came with vegetables and polenta. Both meals came with soup or salad as a starter, we had the minestrone which we both really liked. We also enjoyed their foccacia bread which is made in-house: soft, buttery, with a nice crisp top. Everything was excellent. The charring on the steak was perfect. The chicken was moist and flavorful. BUT THE POLENTA…..my husband is a chef and NO ONE makes polenta as good as him….until now. It was cheesy, creamy, good form….a little taste of heaven. We paid our compliments to the owner who was very gracious. We highly reccomend this restaurant for Italian/American fare….reasonably priced….our total bill was about $50 (no drinks).

  • MR AND MRS WINSLOW

    THE FOOD IS VERY GOOD AND THE SERIVE GREAT. THE BREAD WOULD BE BETTER IF WARM, IT WAS COLD. THE SALAD WAS NOT GOOD, COULD NOT FIND THE CREAMY DRESSING AND THERE WERE FEW BEANS ON ONE SMALL SLICE OF TOMATOE. THE GLASS OF HOUSE WINE GOOD, BUT BOWL OF WINE GLASS VERY SMALL. BUT THE MAIN DISHES WERE VERY GOOD AND THE DESERTS WERE VERY GOOD. WE WILL GO BACK MANY TIMES, A VERY GOOD RESTAURANT. PARKING NO PROBLEM AT ALL.

  • JEMK

    I was excited to go. Ventured to South SF. Had an all around mediocre experience. Will not return as there are so many great italian joints in San Francisco to revisit and explore.

  • Local SSF Gal

    I’ve enjoyed meals here on a number of occasions. If offered, I would bathe in their luscious creamy cheesy polenta. This is the stuff dreams are made of. This is an old school restaurant, you’ll want to plan for a couple hours at least. Cocktail, Appetizer, salad/soup, main course. Good times.

  • WINSLOW FAMILY

    WE HAVE BEEN TO SODINI’S RESTAURANT SEVERAL TIMES, FOOD ALWAYS VERY GOOD. A FEW SUGGESTIONS THOUGH, THE ICE TEA HAS NO FLAVOR, IT IS LIKE WATER, NEEDS TO BE LIKE ICE TEA. THE BREAD WOULD BE SO MUCH BETTER IF IT WERE WARMED SOME, ICE COLD.
    THE WINSLOW FAMILY

  • D

    My wife and myself have eaten at Bertolucci’s numerous times under both ownerships. We never had a bad meal until last week. I ordered the Petrale Sole and was extremely disappointed with the sole; it was HORRIBLE. The Petrale Sole was either old and/or frozen. It was dipped in egg batter and then fried in oil and butter. It was floating in the grease.

  • Agustin Simon

    I went Friday because of the good reviews I had seen on both TV and on the Internet. The foccaccia was flavorless. The Calamari was Ok. The Wine was good. The Minestrone need it salt. The Caprese was delicious. The grated cheese was nice and fresh. The water they serve initially sucked it was so awful. So you need to request bottled water or carbonated water. The Linguini al fruti di mare was the only other decent plate we had that was worth eating. The grilled chicken needed some kind of flavor or at least salt. The chicken parmiggiana was awful The worst thing was the angel hair, which was the special for the day. My three year old niece could have make it better. The Fettucini Alfredo was so so. The service was mediocre. I would reccomend anyone who goes there to go and try a taqueria named “El Farolito, which is not too far away from this restaurant at a much lower price. Taqueria “EL Farolito we found by walking by it is located at 394 Grand Ave. South San Francisco. and however goes there will spend less than one quarter of what this restaurant charges for the food and the quality is ten times better

  • Robert

    I work nearby and have seen the red sign off 101 many times, and wanted to visit due to having this restaurant on my list due to its strong recommendation from the Check Please trio. I found the experience mediocre – edible, but not deserving the high praise from the Check Please trio. It’s been over 2 years since that show and from reading the reviews perhaps the ownership has changed. I enjoyed the atmosphere – old Italian family style, with tables not crammed together but very comfortably spaced apart. The bathroom had a lot of delightful rat pack photos including Frankie’s mug shot right over the toilet – loved it! But the food was just OK and the service below par. My brother had a dinner salad and the linguini with mussels and clams. The salad looked fresh, though a bit sparse of items beyond the lettuce – could use a bit more of the garbanzo and other beans, etc. His seafood linguini looked good and he had a large portion – as mentioned as typical from the Check Please show. I had had asked the waitress for her recommendation between the spaghetti and meatballs or lasagne. She instantly said the lasagna, so I went with that. I also had a side of steamed vegetables. The lasagna was a medium or slightly small sized portion – not a generous one like I was expecting. Plus is was mostly cheese – hardly any pasta, hardly any beef. But it was decent tasting. The service was below par. Although she was very pleasant, she was in her own world: hard to get her attention (even when right at the next booth) and not attentive to either us or the duties of a waiter/waitress at an Italian restaurant. I had to wait and finally flag down another waitress for the balsamic vinegar and oil for the focaccia bread (which was good). She never took away the used salad plate from my brother. We had to wait a long while to finally ask her to bring the parmesan cheese for the linguini (not freshly grated at the table but a previously grated bowl, though reasonably fresh). She never asked us for dessert, so after waiting a long time with empty plates at our table we decided to instead just ask for the check. We benefitted from our absent-minded waitress in the end. Our pleasant and cheerful waitress seemed to undercharge us. Overall, a comfy decent place but not worth going out of one’s way for. Go to Ristorante Parma in SF for lasagna that sets the bay area standard for me, so far.

  • janece

    Re recent re-broadcast of Pat Kuleto show — Maria Manso’s restaurant in San Rafael has been closed for something like two years now; please add a note if you’re going to play it yet again. Thanks.

  • george

    Went there as a solo diner Tuesday at 7pm. Walked out at 715pm. Horrible service. Repeatedly told someone would be right with me, but they weren’t. Wasn’t even offered a drink while waiting.