As I've mentioned in the past, despite my phenomenally WASPy name, I am in fact fully half Italian-American, and it is really culturally how I identify myself. The bulk of my family lived in Rotterdam, NY, a suburb of the teeming metropolis of Schenectady, just to the west of Albany. If you tell someone you live in Rotterdam, they assume you are either Italian or Polish. Those are the options.
Anyway, when I first moved to San Francisco, it took little time for me to discover the fabulous Lucca Ravioli Co. With its telltale red-white-and-green awning and midcentury logotype signage, it's a total throwback not only to the days when the Mission was largely Italian and Irish, but to Rotterdam, where time has effectively not moved since that era, either.
As the name implies, Lucca's ravioli are the main draw. Unlike the big, flat squares my family makes, Lucca's are dainty, two-inch square pillows filled copiously with cheese, spinach or meat. Exquisite Italian cured meats and cheeses abound behind the counter. I was thrilled this last time to see they had caciocavallo, a dry, aged provolone from Sicily, that I adore and get everytime it's there (which is not always). I also drool in my sleep over dreams of their hot salame and sweet coppa, and the prosciutto is perhaps the best in town. Round that out with an excellent selection of DiCecco pasta (Barilla? Never!); decent, cheap Italian wines; liqueurs from the mundane to the esoteric; cookies, candies and condiments; and even a healthy smattering of Argentine goods. If I had to shop in only one store for the rest of my life, I could probably subsist well and happily on the spoils of Lucca's shelves.
Lucca Ravioli Co.
1100 Valencia St (at 22nd)