Alioto's Waterside Cafe Restaurant Review

Alioto’s – In the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf for 4 generations

Alioto’s Waterside Cafe Restaurant Review

Situated on Fisherman’s Wharf, Alioto’s is a landmark Italian seafood restaurant that has been owned and operated by the same family for four generations. Alioto’s has been selling fresh seafood since 1925, when it was the simple food stall #8 on the wharf. Today, Alioto’s still has a streetside food counter on Fisherman’s Wharf to stop by for a quick bite of shrimp cocktail or crab roll on the go, but it now has two full service restaurants: the fine dining and great views of Alioto’s upstairs, and the more casual Alioto’s Waterside Cafe downstairs. The specialty of Alioto’s is still Dungeness crab (when it’s in season), but the restaurants serve a variety of fresh seafood selections. Judging by our waiter’s reaction when he learned we were locals (a blank stare, head cocked to the side in confusion), the restaurant mostly caters to tourists, but most locals have been to Alioto’s at least once and probably return for the crab from time to time.

The Aliotos have been a prominent San Francisco family for generations – in restaurants and politics. Joseph Alioto served as San Francisco mayor from 1968-1976, while other family members have been politically active in many other capacities. A few other restaurants and businesses around the city are part of the Alioto family legacy.

The Location

Alioto’s Waterside Cafe Restaurant has a prime location on Fisherman’s Wharf, about halfway down the pier. The restaurant overlooks the boat marina (and the Golden Gate Bridge on a clear day) on one side and Fisherman’s Wharf on the other.

Parking lots are located across from the restaurant and at the end of the pier at a rate of about $3 per 20 minutes.


2829 Taylor StreetFisherman’s Wharf,

San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: (415) 359-1200

Opening Hours

  • Sunday through Thursday: 11 am – 10 pm
  • Friday and Saturday: 11 am – 9 pm

The Ambiance

Alioto’s Waterside Cafe has a semi-casual atmosphere, the ambiance of a seaside trattoria, with small rustic touches and light fishing themed decor. It is somewhat touristy, but not gimmicky. A long bar runs along one side of the restaurant in an old world style, and the restaurant is split between two rooms with the kitchen in the middle.

The large windows at the back of the restaurant offer views of the water and the boats in the marina, while the front of the restaurant looks out onto Fisherman’s Wharf. Upstairs is fancier and the views are even more scenic, and it feels farther removed from the all the tourists shuffling about below.

The Service

The waiters were professional and friendly, but seemed spread thin among the patrons. Outside the restaurant, the hosts stand beside the menu displays and goad onlookers into being seated inside. Inside, the waiters were busy, moving quickly from table to table. Most of their visits to our table were quick and unobtrusive, though one did stop to chat a bit, and was helpful in explaining a little about the Alioto family that owns the restaurant.

The Price

Alioto’s Waterside Cafe is the lower priced part of the restaurant, with entrees ranging from around $13-$22 for sandwiches or pasta to an average of about $14-$25. A variety of fried fish items are all around $23 and $24 for a full basket including fries. Fresh shellfish ranges from about $22 for an order of mussels. The crab is sold at market price each day – and on this day in August, crab was $32 or $16 for half. Beers run about $5 while wine ranges from $18 to $68, with most hovering around $24 (or about $6.25 for a glass).

Alioto's Dungeness crab and Fisherman's Platter

Alioto’s Dungeness crab and Fisherman’s Platter

The Food

The menu at Alioto’s Waterside Cafe is extensive, with many kinds of fish and shellfish, pasta, sandwiches, and salads, most (but not all) featuring seafood. Since crab is one of the specialties of Alioto’s, I ordered a half order of crab, Wharf Style, meaning it was served with a sauce of white wine and butter, seasoned with garlic, green onion, and diced tomatoes. We also decided on the Fisherman’s Platter, which is a basket of fried seafood that included fried shrimp, scallops, calamari, and pollack with fries.

All entrees at Alioto’s come with a choice of clam chowder or salad. Of course, the chowder is the way to go. It’s a small cup of white, New England style clam chowder that comes with a side of sourdough bread. The chowder was a good way to kick off the meal without being too filling, and the flavor was good, though mild.

Alioto's clam chowder and sourdough bread

Alioto’s clam chowder and sourdough bread

The crab was fantastic. It was very fresh and perfectly cooked, so it was easy to crack and the meat came out easily. The sauce was flavorful but light, so it brought out the flavor of the crab rather than overpowering it. It’s also messy to eat, so I wore that crab bib shamelessly.

The Fisherman’s Platter offered a plentiful selection of fried seafood, with well cooked calamari (rubbery calamari is the worst), giant shrimp and scallops. These were served with some of the best tartar sauce I have tasted. The fried food got cold pretty quickly, and the breading started to get soggy. The fries were thick cut (but not steak fries) and unseasoned, and were the weak part of the meal, but fortunately there was plenty of other food to go around.

Overall, Alioto’s Waterside Cafe Restaurant offers a solid Sicilian seafood meal in a prime (but touristy) location with great views. Alioto’s is one of the best options for visitors to San Francisco to experience the fresh seafood of Fisherman’s Wharf.

Location of Alioto’s Waterside Cafe Restaurant

Location of Alioto's Waterside Cafe Restaurant

Map showing location of Aliotos

Website :

Phone :  +1 415-359-1200

Nearby Tourist Attractions–  Pier 39, Fisherman’s wharf, Alcatraz Island

Published On: Sunday, February 26th, 2017