Flour Water Is Where Couples Celebrate Their Relationships

Men's Dating

Editor’s Choice Award: Flour + Water Eatery Helps Couples Celebrate Relationship Milestones

Amber Brooks
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The Short Version: Many couples choose to celebrate relationship milestones at San Francisco’s Flour + Water restaurant because of its welcoming vibe, homemade pasta and pizza, and extensive wine menu. The restaurant makes its food using traditional Italian methods, but adds a modern twist to many menu items. Flour + Water plans to open a wine bar soon, which means couples can start conversations while they wait for a table. For offering couples a vibrant yet intimate atmosphere to celebrate relationship milestones, Flour + Water has earned our Editor’s Choice Award.

Flour + Water has been making a name for itself since it first opened in the Mission district of San Francisco in 2009. The restaurant carefully focuses on the details: from the unique flavor combinations of its homemade pasta varieties to the thoughtful touch of printing the soundtrack it plays for diners each night.

Those little touches keep couples coming back for delicious meals and conversations in an intimate yet vibrant setting.

“Flour + Water was inspired by a love of regional Italian food. We knew the heart of the menu would be our fresh pasta. It even developed over time that we built a dough room where we produce all of our pastas,” said Thomas McNaughton, Co-Chef and Partner of Flour + Water.

In addition to pasta, pizza, and an extensive wine list, Flour + Water is a popular spot for relationship celebrations because of its unique environment. Guests enjoy a vibrant, fun, and cozy setting as they eat.

The Flour + Water logo

Flour + Water offers couples a vibrant atmosphere and delicious takes on traditional Italian favorites.

“The rock music is playing a little too loud, and the lights are a little too low. So that produces this amazing atmosphere,” said Thomas.

That combination of artful, straightforward food and a compelling atmosphere has earned the restaurant a diverse following. On a night out at the restaurant, diners may see young singles on a first date, a local artist covered in paint eating at the bar, or a retired couple enjoying a glass of wine.

“Everyone has a comfort level with pizza and pasta. Our menu is more creative and California cuisine-driven. It makes for a comfortable and interesting dining experience,” said Ryan Pollnow, Flour + Water Co-Chef and Partner.

Over more than a decade in operation, the Flour + Water team has seen many of the same couples return to celebrate their relationships.

“One of the coolest parts for us is seeing the guests who come every year on their engagement anniversaries. We see in their reservation notes that they’re coming, and we take extra good care of them. When a night out has that much personal meaning, it’s fun for everyone involved,” Ryan said.

Creating a Relaxed and Welcoming Atmosphere

Flour + Water menu offers creative takes on traditional favorites, and diners often feel more excited about trying new things because of the experience curated by the team. That is by design.

“We want our employees’ happiness to shine through. That’s a huge part of the atmosphere at the restaurant. You can’t yell at the server and then send them out with a smile. And a couple can’t have a good first date without happy servers,” Thomas told us.

Cover of the Flour + Water Pasta cookboook

The Flour + Water cookbook teaches couples how to make delicious pasta at home.

Team members are not only cheerful, they are also knowledgeable about menu items. That can help diners feel more comfortable asking about an unfamiliar ingredient or choosing a particular wine.

“One of the biggest mantras for the restaurant is that we want to make our entire menu, including our wine list, understandable, even if some of the wines and pastas are difficult to pronounce,” said Thomas. “Instead of intimidating people, we feel that we need to make the experience the best possible for our guests.”

That accessibility extends beyond the restaurant itself. For example, couples who want to cook Flour + Water-style at home can purchase Thomas’s cookbook, which teaches them the craft of pasta-making.

It was written for ambitious home cooks, and its recipes include staples like Tagliatelle Bolognese, Pumpkin Tortelloni with Sage and Pumpkin Seeds, and Tomato Farfalle with Chicken Polpettine.

Guests Make Memories in Style

The team keeps an eye on the seasons and regions to develop its ever-changing menu. In addition to pasta, Flour + Water’s other specialty is pizza. Its pies are also sophisticated enough to order when celebrating relationship milestones.

Popular pizzas include the Bianco Verde pizza with asparagus, ricotta, fava leaf, and green garlic, and its Salsiccia pizza, topped with pork sausage, marinated artichoke, Taggiasca olives, and chili.

Photo of the exterior of Flour + Water location

Flour + Water stays true to traditional cooking styles and uses fresh ingredients.

The team’s commitment to traditional food preparation is evident beyond its pasta. The chefs have developed a whole animal butchery program that entails using every part of the pork, lamb, goat, or duck in their dishes. They also have a wood-burning oven to make old-world Neapolitan pizzas.

Complex yet comfortable dishes are what make Flour + Water such a special restaurant for couples. Chefs often share stories of marriage proposals — and one wedding — they’ve seen at the restaurant.

“Last night, we had a couple come in, and it was a couple who got married in our restaurant. They had the only wedding at the restaurant. But several times, we’ve cooked at the chef’s table for wedding proposals,” said Thomas.

Flour + Water: Aiming to Expand Its Footprint

Flour + Water is a popular restaurant, and diners are seated on a first-come, first-served basis. That means couples may have to wait if they want to celebrate relationship milestones without a reservation.

At the same time, the team wants to change the concept of what it means for a restaurant to be hard to get into. While some couples may think restaurants with waitlists are snobby, Flour + Water promises that isn’t the case.

“You’re coming to the restaurant because you’re looking to be taken care of. We want to set a precedent for hospitality from the moment you walk in. But you’re also there to have fun,” Thomas told us.

To make the wait more enjoyable for couples, the Flour + Water team plans to open a wine bar concept down the block in the spring. For years, the team has been concerned about where they can have diners sit or stand while they’re waiting for their table.

So, they’re going to transform the pasta shop they developed during the pandemic into a wine bar in the evenings. During the day, the shop will sell the same ingredients the chefs at Flour + Water use, including oil, vinegar, retail wine, and, of course, pasta.

In the evenings, the space will transform into a wine bar.

“If you show up early or meet your date for a drink before dinner, we will have this Italian and California wine bar to facilitate that,” Ryan said.

In addition, the team will occasionally cook tableside and host special events in its second space. Thomas and Ryan are excited about how Flour + Water has changed over its 12-year history — and what it will become post-pandemic.

“We’re excited to evolve and grow. We take care of our people, and pay it forward to our guest experience,” Ryan told us.