Make reservations if you can. Since we didn't, we had to sit at the community table (a wooden picnic table with two benches that seat eight). In spite of our doubts, that seating assignment actually enhanced our dining experience and became the best thing about the evening there because of the other couple with whom we dined. It's a fairly small establishment, and there was no room for us to stand at the bar and order a drink while we waited. They wouldn't even allow us to try--they insisted we go outside and find another place to have a cocktail. So, regrettably, we went next door to Cotogna's sister restaurant, the unjustifiably pretentious Quince. Don't waste your time or money there. Of course, we didn't order from the food menu while we waited, but I did pay $12 for the WORST cocktail I've ever had. Getting the call from Cotogna was such a relief because it meant we could get out of Quince.
Cotogna's menu is appropriate for the cuisine, but they didn't have a large selection. The items we chose were very good, though. We ordered the fried green tomatoes for an appetizer (and they were just adequate--not anywhere near exceptional), a pizza and a stuffed pasta dish for our entrees (both were very good), and the bomboloni and panna cotta for desserts (they were wonderful). One of the best things about Cotogna is the wine selection and pricing. Every wine sold by the glass is $10, and every bottle is $40. So, if you know your wines, you can get some pretty nice affordable restaurant wines.
Just a transportation tip: we were able to take the Powell line and California line cable cars with an additional five-block walk from our Union Square hotel, so being able to access Cotogna without a taxi was a plus.
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