Pompei’s Grotto: Reviews

Pompei’s Grotto: Reviews | restaurant info + video | full episode video

Brian Boitano
Name: Brian
Occupation: Olympic Champion / Cookbook Author
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pompei’s Grotto
Reviewed Pompei’s Grotto: Tuesday, February 26, 2013

First of all, I have a soft spot in my heart for this restaurant as my mom and dad used to date here back in the day. I would go as far as to say that this was my parents’ favorite restaurant in the city, next to House of Prime Rib. Parking in the neighborhood is readily available (depending on the time of year, of course). We showed up at about 7:00 with no reservations and were seated right away. It seemed like there were some locals hanging out at the bar, which isn’t usual in that neighborhood. I noticed they had a nice cocktail menu.

We waited for up to 10 minutes for our waitress, Dee to come over to the table. Once she got there she apologized and was very sweet. I really like the atmosphere; it is nostalgic in an old San Fran fisherman’s wharf way, casual, with red and white checker tablecloths with candles on the table, low lighting, and wood paneled walls. It is intimate with low music so you can have a quiet conversation. It is like stepping back in time.

I have to say the value used to be better. You still get a nice size portion. Not too big and not too small, but the prices used to be much better. Of course it didn’t help that we ordered the two most expensive things on the menu, but the fish prices range from $15-$22 and the fisherman’s stew and cioppino are both a nickel short of 30 bucks.

The clam chowder had a nice tasting broth but lacked a lot of clams — not one in every bite, but still it was quite a good soup. The salad came already tossed with the dressing, which isn’t usual for a lot of the casual San Fran old school restaurants. The sea bass was simply grilled because I asked for it that way with a side of perfectly done zucchini and some fingerling potatoes. The fish was done well bordering on overcooked. That’s unusual from past experiences. The fisherman’s stew was really nice. Served super hot and the garlicky tomato broth was really tasty with a ton of seafood in it, which included: jumbo shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels (although I had not a one), calamari and white fish.

All in all, I feel it’s not quite as good as it used to be but sometimes you are just looking for a clean, fresh meal that is good for you, well-prepared, and doesn’t break the calorie bubble for the day with hidden restaurant calories.


Nicole Quihuis
Name: Nicole
Occupation: Food Photographer
Location: San Jose
Favorite Restaurant: Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food
Reviewed Pompei’s Grotto: Sunday, February 24, 2013

I wouldn’t ordinarily head towards Fisherman’s Wharf, the most touristy area in San Francisco, for anything… let alone a meal. My first impression of Pompei’s Grotto was that the decor was very “tchotchke” with the plastic flowers that adored the gingham table clothes and the Spanish music playing in the background. The menu was very typical this area; pasta, sandwiches, salads, seafood.

The sole in the Sole Sandwich seemed fresh… thankfully the coating on the fish was minimal, however, very bland. The fries were not what I know to be ‘shoe string’ rather very typical of frozen french fries. The hot crab sandwich… thankfully the crab was fresh tasting but the ‘Mornay sauce’ which was a typical alfredo sauce, was a great disservice to the crab drowning out its fresh flavor. The Italian coleslaw was over dressed with a mayonnaise dressing that had hues of typical Italian seasoning.

The clam chowder was typical tasting for wharf chowder, I prefer my clam chowder more on the thick creamy side which could be easily accomplished by pureeing some of the potato within the chowder.

You can’t go wrong with Gelato, can you? The Gelato Truffles were fun, I liked the zabaglione the best.

The Arnold Palmer, water logged and bland. It would have been nice to taste a fresh brewed tea and fresh lemonade. The fresh bread at the table, which was from the bakery down the street, was one of the best things I ate at Pompei’s Grotto.

I would never go back to Pompei’s Grotto or even suggest anyone eat there. You want fresh pasta? Head to Flower & Water in the Mission. There are WAY too many amazing restaurants in San Francisco to ever need to go near Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants are for people who don’t know the city and don’t care to get to know the city. Fisherman’s Wharf is for tourists.


Jennifer Leibick
Name: Jennifer
Occupation: Stay-at-home Mom
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: SPQR
Reviewed Pompei’s Grotto: Thursday, February 21, 2013

I really wanted to love this place because the family and staff were so warm and friendly and they seated us immediately. However, the food was underwhelming, and the total bill was a bit pricey for the quality. I started with crab cakes (and I love crab cakes) and was very disappointed in what was served.

On the positive side, there was a lot of lump crab meat, but on the negative side the consistency was wet and mushy — sort of like there was melted mayonnaise inside; plus there was not much flavor. Next, I had the wedge salad and did enjoy it; it was very tasty with fresh tomatoes and crispy pieces of bacon. For my main entrée I had the Fisherman’s stew and was disappointed again. Some of the seafood was overcooked, some undercooked and the sauce had no flavor. I was waiting for a burst of fresh tomato and garlic and never got it. The Sauvignon Blanc we had was good, very crisp, refreshing and the best value for the price out of everything we ordered.

The staff was very nice and checked on us a few times, but there were a few things that could have been improved. One item ordered seemed to have been forgotten and then, when they did finally bring it out, it was not how we ordered it. They did remedy the situation immediately though and were very apologetic. They only refilled our wine once, which seemed odd because it wasn’t busy in the restaurant. Lastly, for a family-friendly restaurant, I thought they would have paid better attention when putting food down on the table and taking it away so that they would steer clear of the infant at the table. The restaurant itself has a charming, family owned vibe with light music and views of the wharf area.

Overall, a very nice staff and a good location for tourists, but I didn’t love the food and will most likely not return.

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  • northbeach

    ” Fisherman’s Wharf restaurants are for people who don’t know the city
    and don’t care to get to know the city. Fisherman’s Wharf is for
    tourists.” Such an ignorant statement. Anyone born and raised in this city knows that’s not true. Pompei’s is a great place to eat and it is a cornerstone of fisherman’s wharf history.

    Anyone who is truly from this city knows the importance and history that is in the wharf.

  • cellarmistress

    I’m from the midwest but am moving to the Bay Area next month. Many times I have walked past Pompei’s Grotto and have wanted to go in but didn’t. I’m going to. They seem like a piece of San Francisco history and what’s not to love. Their chef is from italy, everything seems fresh. Whether you like something or not is all relative to your palate and there is no wrong answer. This restaurant is calling my name. Thanks Brian Boitano and Chef Please Bay Area. You rock!