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Much has been written about Tosca Cafe: The time Sean Penn allegedly shot a gun as ?percussion accompaniment.? The time Hunter S. Thompson broke an ankle by jumping off the bar. The time Bono sang along to ?O Sole Mio.?

Our recent visit may not go down in the history books, but we sure had one helluva good meal (and time) at the revamped North Beach restaurant.

Under restaurateur Ken Friedman?s direction, much of the iconic interior remains the same, if spruced up--the banquettes were rehabbed with red leather and the Italian murals are now illuminated, though the jukebox thankfully still plays opera songs for a quarter.

The biggest difference--for the better--is the brand-new open kitchen and menu, overhauled by chef and co-owner April Bloomfield of NYC hot spots The Spotted Pig and The Breslin. She focuses on sharable Italian dishes with a Bay Area slant, such as the decadent grilled polenta with mushrooms from Far West Fungi and a must-order roasted chicken for two soaked in a sweet Marsala sauce.

The wine list offers a mix of food-friendly Italian and Californian varieties, including white and rosé blends created specifically for Tosca. And an updated version of the famous House Cappuccino remains, made with bourbon, steamed milk and Dandelion chocolate.

No word on whether the legendary back room still exists.

242 Columbus Ave.; 415-986-9651 or

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