The One Who Keeps the Book San Francisco
How to Score a Table at Penny Roma
Perhaps you’ve recently partaken in the glory that is the multi-hour pasta tasting menu at Flour + Water, and now you’re in the mood for something a bit more weeknight casual. You beeline it to Penny Roma, the restaurant group’s more lower key sister restaurant that opened in 2021. There, the kitchen is busting out the same caliber of crudi and vegetable-forward antipasti to complement your big ‘ol bowls of pasta. The only problem? There are no tables or reservations available.
Fret not, we sat down with GM Paige McNeil to help you learn how to get in. The East Bay native started at Flour + Water as a server, and subsequently opened Penny Roma as the GM, where she keeps the dinner party vibes going on a nightly basis. Right this way.
Resy: How many seats are there at Penny Roma?
Page McNeil: Our entire dining room has 65 seats, bar included.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
We release reservations exactly four weeks, or 28 days, in advance. They drop at midnight on a daily basis.
How quickly do seats get booked out?
Our weekend time slots start booking up within a day or two after being released, especially our larger tables. We only have two tables that seat six guests, so those are always the first to go, but primetime smaller tables go quickly, as well.
Are any of the seats in the restaurant held for walk-ins?
Definitely! We hold several tables for each of our seatings every night. We try to hold more on Fridays and Saturdays as those are our highest volume nights for walk-in guests and we want to accommodate as many folks as we can.
What time would you recommend stopping by to snag one of the walk-in seats?
The best bet is always to arrive a few minutes before we open so you can snag one of the open spots off the bat. Once they’re full, the wait can jump from an hour to three depending on the night. The good news is we have some great neighborhood spots to hang out if there is a wait. Our sister bar Trick Dog next door is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail. On Fridays and Saturdays, our Pasta Shop is also open later to get the fun started with a bottle of wine while waiting for a table.
During peak time, what is the typical wait time for a walk-in?
During our peak moments, the wait can be one-and-a-half to two hours. Most of the time we are able to get folks seated a little sooner, as not everyone sticks around. Typically the earlier in the night, the shorter the wait. Once we hit 7 p.m. or so, the waitlist is already pretty long.
Many restaurants in the city are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays so we get to welcome in a lot of industry folks those nights which is always a treat.— Page McNeil, Penny Roma
When are your busiest nights?
Typically, Friday and Saturday evenings are the busiest, though we usually have a great Monday night crowd as well. Many restaurants in the city are closed on Sundays and/or Mondays so we get to welcome in a lot of industry folks those nights which is always a treat.
How long is your Notify list on average?
Sunday through Thursday, it’s usually somewhere between 40 to 60 guests. For Friday and Saturday nights, though, it’s pretty crazy, upwards of 130 to 150 people looking for a spot.
If someone were to set a Notify for Penny Roma on Resy, is there a certain day or time they’d be most likely to get a reservation?
Your best bet is checking two to three days out. This is when we confirm reservations so those that change their mind usually cancel around then.
Of all the places to sit in the restaurant, what do you think is the best seat in the house?
I love the center dining room table along the back wall. It’s right in the middle of the action and has a great view of the whole restaurant. You can see our grill cooks rocking out proteins on the hearth and enjoy the view into the plant filled courtyard. It’s a great spot. We also have a super special table for two in the courtyard. It’s a little more private and separated from other tables and the perfect table for anniversaries or an intimate dinner out.
It’s Friday night at 7 p.m. Can you set the scene for us?
The album has just switched from The Cars to Fleetwood Mac (if I’m the one picking the playlist that night) and there’s a hum that takes over the dining room. Entrees are hitting tables and some folks are making their way through dessert. The door is busy, the Pasta Shop is busy, and our team is dancing, hustling and having a great time.
Speaking of music, what kind is played inside the restaurant?
We have an awesome music program here at Penny Roma, and Flour + Water Hospitality Group as a whole. We have a music director that puts together whole album playlists featuring a little bit of everything from classic rock to rap. It is truly an art figuring out how to order the albums so they hit just right for the point in the night. My favorite playlist, Movements, gets it just right. We start off with The Cars and Fleetwood Mac then Mac Miller hits just in time for our second seating. There’s some Depeche Mode before rounding out the night with The Cranberries. We switch the playlist nightly to fit the flow and vibe of service and there’s always a little something for everyone. We print our playlists too so folks can follow along, which is fun.
For someone going to Penny Roma for the first time, what should they order?
First off, you have to share everything. It’s the only way to go, and it lets our service shine and flows the best with the kitchen. I always recommend hitting one item from each section of the menu. Personally, I would start off with the albacore tartare and prosciutto San Daniele, then do the agnolotti dal plin with our house made focaccia. The bread is a must because there’s always some saucy goodness left behind. Those have all been on our menu in one form or another since we opened and are classics for a reason. While our pastas are fabulous, the secondi are super special as well so I would round off the meal with our new porchetta dish and the roasted carrots. So springy and delish.
Omar Mamoon is a San Francisco-based writer & cookie dough professional. Find him at @ommmar.