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First Bite: Delarosa, Have We Met Before?

Several minutes into poring over our menus at Delarosa, my dining companion looked over at me and muttered, "This place is totally ripping Beretta off." That would be true if not for one important fact—Delarosa, which opened in mid-November on Chestnut street in the Marina—shares the same owners as Beretta, and ripping off is part of the plan. Consider for a moment the following: San Francisco can at times be a fractious town. Neighborhoods, like boroughs in New  York, are clearly delineated, with crossover limited to a few choice restaurants. Marina folks aren't going to drive across town to wait on line at Beretta, and Beretta regulars won't brave Marina parking to try Delarosa. So it doesn't really matter if both restaurants serve eggplant caponatina with burrata, or funghi pizza, or meatballs in spicy tomato sauce (which they do).

What's important to understand and appreciate about Delarosa (and Beretta and Starbelly, with which two of the owners are involved) is that they are intended as neighborhood restaurants, not destination restaurants. Whereas the latter often strikes out with a "build it and they will come" mentality, the former aim to identify what a particular part of town is lacking and wishing for and fulfill that need. San Francisco needs both types of restaurants.

So, Delarosa. Its orange and slate gray color palette is vaguely evocative of CB2, Crate and Barrel's lower-priced, more casual housewares shop and the seating is all communal—either on high stools at a tall table or short cubes at shorter tables that fill the snug space. You are very close to your neighbors and your neighbors are very close to the servers. Close quarters and budget-friendly Italian food are the hallmarks of this newcomer, and though it does share many similarities with Beretta, there are also distinguishing features. Though there are cocktails here, ranging from classic to not-so, as well as wine, the focus is on the beer, with 14 interesting draft options and another 16 in bottles. Beretta's cocktail program launched at the zenith of our city's spiritous obsession and Delarosa's well-curated beer list seems to dovetail quite nicely with a renewed citywide interest in suds. You could do worse than a dinner of pizza, fried Brussels sprouts and beer, to be sure. But if you're thinking of heading across town, you may first want to calculate your distance to Beretta.