One of my favorite food memories is waiting for my grandfather's famous Sunday gravy (Sicilian for a rich, tomato-based meat sauce) while passing around a platter of his equally famous arancini – rice balls filled with meat sauce, mozzarella and peas, rolled in breadcrumbs, and fried golden brown. Lately I've seen arancini on upscale menus (I particularly like the Dungeness crab version at Delarosa) but to bring back those warm feelings from my childhood, I like the traditional recipe best. At Original U.S. Restaurant in North Beach, you'll find a lot of wonderful, old school Italian comfort dishes (like a delicious sausage and pepper sandwich, another of my childhood favorites), but the one item I have to order every time is their big, crispy, gooey, delightful arancini, made just like Grandpa Lorenzo's.
Original U.S. Restaurant: 515 Columbus Avenue (between Green and Stockton), 415-397-5200, no website
– S. Reynolds