Even though I had heard about The Stinking Rose for years, I had never thought to go there. If I recall, The Stinking Rose was supposed to be known for using garlic in every dish they make… including ice cream, but having eaten there now, I realize it’s actually not that much different than any other Italian restaurant. There is a variety of different entrees including traditional Italian favorites like pastas and pizzas, but there are many different meat and seafood dishes as well. I’m sure that the preparation of most of these dishes uses a heavy dose of garlic, but I still don’t think I saw garlic ice cream on the menu.
Nevertheless, we were meeting N Squared there for dinner, and they had both been there a few times and seemed to enjoy the food there quite a bit. The restaurant is located right on the edge of North Beach, and the space is surprisingly larger than you would think from looking at the outside. Inside, it’s a rather cheesily (no pun intended) decorated place filled with every stereotypical trinket or decoration that would go in any and every Italian restaurant. From black and white photos of old time celebrities to strings of garlic cloves and empty bottles of wine, it was all over the place. It was kind of funny.
Having been there before, we deferred to N Squared and they suggested we share a large order of the Zuppa di Pesce. In addition, much to my lack in forethought, I agreed on ordering the Bagna Calda, also known as Garlic Soaking in a Hot Tub.
The Bagna Calda was a mini pan full of roasted garlic gloves sitting in olive oil. The garlic was pretty soft and quite easily spreadable on garlic toast or bread, but it really was a little too much garlic for me. For Pdho, it was quite the opposite. He kept on eating one clove after another, and boy, did he really smell like garlic for hours afterwards.
The Zuppa di Pesce was a pretty huge bowl of tomato-based soup filled with A LOT of seafood. There was everything from mussels, shrimps, calamari, fish and crab. The seafood was well-cooked, and the whole dish was pretty delicious. I particularly liked the crab which I normally avoid, because it is such a pain to crack the shell and get at the crab meat. However, in this instance, the crab was cooked in such a way that the shell cracked relatively easily and the crab meat easily came out without shredding to small bits and pieces. I really enjoyed it.
The Stinking Rose turned out to be less gimmicky in food but more cheesy in decor than I had imagined. It was a very pleasant dinner with great company. In fact, I actually think this place has the perfect ambiance for big groups and birthday celebrations. So I definitely think the restaurant is worth checking out if you’re looking for solid Italian food in North Beach. Although we only had the Zuppa di Pesce, considering it tasted pretty good, I’m sure the rest of the food is decent enough.
325 Columbus Ave
San Francisco, CA 94133
PAFO Ratings for Stinking Rose:
Ambiance 3 stars
Food 3½ stars
Overall rating 3 stars