The eaters are Italian – so we pretty much avoid Italian food out unless it is something special. We heard that Pollaio’s chicken was indeed special. We headed up to North Beach, a long-standing Italian enclave that borders Chinatown in SF. The signs literally turn from Chinese characters to Italian in the course of one block. The streets are lined with Italian and Italian-American Trattorias and Cafes catering to locals and a fair share of tourists.
We arrived at Pollaio on a Friday night with no reservation (potentially dangerous) – but were welcomed right in. The ambiance is that of a cozy neighborhood cafe, and the service should not have been friendlier. It is truly a mix of Argentine and Italian in there (not surprising since many Argentines have Italian heritage) with Italian advertising and Argentine soccer paraphernalia.
As previously stated, Pollaio specializes in chicken, so we barely had to hesitate with the menu. I suppose you could order other things, but WHY would you?!? We ordered a whole chicken ($13) along with a side order of fries. The chickens, which seemed to account for most of the orders in restaurant, came out of the kitchen quickly. The whole chicken that arrived at our table had an amazing char and a delicious but not overpowering flavor of garlic and oregano. Even the white meat was tender and juicy. These people were truly experts. M and I polished off the entire chicken – save one drumstick. The fries were good, but paled in comparison to the chicken.The entire meal topped only $20, and we were really pleased with our meal. While Pollaio may not be a single menu-item restaurant, it might as well be one since it does this single item so well!