August 21, 2012

August 21, 2012

The dining room and counter overlooking the pizza oven area. Photo: ©


Montanara. Photo: ©


The D.O.C. pizza. Photo: ©


Father and son: Antonio and Gennaro Langella. Photo: ©


The coffee and wine bar in the side room. Photo: ©


Exterior at night. Photo: ©

Last week I had a chance to tour and dine at the new ~FARINA PIZZA & CUCINA ITALIANA~, the latest project from the Farina team at the corner of 18th Street and Valencia. There’s a coffee counter open for service in the morning, along with some baked goods, like Italian cornetti. (I put in a request for sfogliatella, the Neapolitan pastry I will request on my deathbed.)

Both lunch and dinner are served, with the menu centered around classic Neapolitan pizzas, 11 in all. The stone pizza oven with black mosaic tile is a beaut (Black Beauty!), made by Antonio Langella—there are only two others like it in the U.S. (in the Bronx), while Japan has 40(!). It’s made with sand from Vesuvius, which no doubt contributes to its fiery temp. My father and I were blown away with our pizzas, which came out in 45 seconds cooked evenly and beautifully. For those who dislike the char of Neapolitan pizzas cooked in wood-fired ovens, you’ll enjoy this one.

The pizzaiolo, Gennaro Langella, has been well taught by his father Antonio, who has been making pizzas for 55 years (Gennaro is the fifth generation of pizza makers in his family). Father and son are working closely together this initial month while the pizzeria ramps up. The dough has great flavor (it’s made with Caputo flour) and an amazing elasticity—you have to nab a seat at the counter so you can watch the crew prepare the pizzas. I had to try the D.O.C., with buffalo mozzarella, while my father had the Romano with really delicious anchovies (all pizzas are $15). The sauce is made with tomatoes from La Fiammante, a brand that is only provided to Neapolitan pizzaioli and is not exported to the U.S.; due to Antonio’s connections with the producer, Farina has access to the prized tomatoes.

You’ll also need to try the montanara ($5), a puffed-up ball of pizza dough fried in olive oil and finished in the oven, topped with cherry tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and a dollop of fior di latte mozzarella. Yeah, bring on the carbs. Chef Paolo Laboa of Farina up the street is putting his mark on the dishes outside of the pizzas, like a risotto with seafood ($15) and manfredi pasta with lobster sauce ($25). There’s also a monster-size tronchetto ($25) on the menu, filled with four kinds of cheese, prosciutto, arugula, and cherry tomatoes. Look for farinata soon as well (a Genovese specialty).

Desserts like a panna cotta and tiramisu are simple but beautifully made by co-pastry chefs Luca Cappelletti and Luca Rubicondo (both are fresh from Italy). Do try the pastiera napoletana, a whole-wheat cake made with ricotta, egg, pastry cream, and orange zest (Antonio shared the recipe he learned as a young boy with the kitchen crew). All the wines are from San Marino (partner Luca Minna is an ambassador for the republic), and there is also a selection of artisan Italian bottled beers from Sardinia, Piedmont, and beyond (they’re not cheap).

Architect-designer Brett Terpeluk has graced the city with another one of his killer spaces: the white exterior of the building has textured hex tiles and is a bit space-agey, while the interior is inviting and cheerful. I loved the Douglas fir planks painted sea foam green behind the coffee bar and under the counters, with the sleek, white, tufted swivel chairs. The kitchen area gleams with white subway tiles, and the eye-catching ceiling above the dining area is made of undulating panels featuring faces from the comic Diabolik in the 1960s (see if you can find your name up there) and mirrors (the panels feature custom LED lighting). The restaurant is full of gorgeous woodwork by Kyle Minor Design (it’s all black acacia wood). Marble everywhere, check. There are a lot of hard surfaces, so the volume is definitely lively—along with some upbeat house music on the system.

When all is said and done, it’s not a very big space: there is room for 35 inside, with only four wood communal tables (they seat six), plus the seven-seat counter overlooking the pizza oven and the side room with a smaller four-seat counter. Fortunately the pizzas cook quickly, so people will be in and out of there. Once the permit for outdoor seating goes through, there will be another 24 seats added under the heat lamps. Large windows look out from the dining room onto Valencia, which will be open on warm nights.

There’s a bottega along the side of the dining room where you can buy artisan pastas, plus Farina’s world-famous pesto. The counter will also serve as a takeout spot for pizzas as well. Yeah, just when we thought we were done with pizza in this town—and then we get this project that has everyone who walks by turning his head. No reservations, by the way.


The exterior of the former Maharani. Yelp photo by Kevin Y.

After 23 years in business, Maharani Restaurant at the corner of Post and Polk closed last October. But the space has a new future (and owners): the crew behind Blur up the street on Polk are going to open ~BITTERS, BOCK, AND RYE~ in mid-October. There will be house-brewed beer and a full bar, hence the name that plays to both. Since there’s a large kitchen, there will be a big food component, focused on serving Southern (specifically Texan) barbecue. The chef manning the smoker will be Aaron Little, previously at Brick Yard on Union. Dinner will be served late into the night (until 1am), along with an all-day weekend brunch until dinner service kicks in. Yeah, and since there’s a liquor license, it’s gonna be boozy.

It’s a big space, with three different areas. The dining room will be casual and comfortable, plus there’s a private party room (800 square feet) with chandeliers and a more loungy vibe. The taproom is going to feature small tanks behind the bar with the home brews—there will be 12 to 18 beers on tap in all, and the spirits will be focused on bourbon, tequila, and Scotch. Specialty cocktails from Blur will also be making their way over. The partners are Ron Kirkpatrick and his wife Holly, along with Shannon Henne and Jon Boswell—they previously owned Tonic, and Tongue and Groove together. Stand by for updates in the coming weeks. 1122 Post St. at Polk.


The front dining area. Photo by Dana Massey-Todd. ©


Dining room and bar area. Photo by Dana Massey-Todd. ©

As previously reported on tablehopper, the new restaurant headed to the former Mecca space in the Castro is ~SHANGHAI~, from restaurateur Francis Tsai. They will be opening (softly) August 22nd (that’s tomorrow!).

Tsai has brought on chef Leo Gan, formerly of Shanghai 1930, to run the kitchen. The food will be focused on modern Shanghai cuisine, with locally sourced products and a seasonally changing menu. You can look at the menu here and here. There will be dinner Tue-Sat, and dim sum brunch will be added on Saturdays and Sundays in mid-September. There will also be a late-night dining menu with small plates from 10pm-11:45pm. Finally, my dream of late-night xiao long bao (soup dumplings) is manifesting!

The large space seats 130 diners, including the bar. There are a few different seating areas that can accommodate larger groups, including a lounge area off the bar with comfy tufted seats. The dining room is partitioned into a few different sections, so the large space should still feel intimate and comfortable. In the evenings after 9:30pm, the area behind the bar will feature a grand piano playing live music, for extra meowness. There will also be parking available until 10pm in a lot at 14th Street and Guerrero, with a shuttle van that will take diners to the restaurant. For now, parking in the lot is $10. Dinner Tue-Sat 5pm-10pm, late-night dining 10pm-11:45pm. 2029 Market St. at Dolores, 415-701-8866.


The sign at Saison. Photo: ©

Liquor license activity revealed the upcoming addresses for both the new ~SAISON~ and ~BRENDA’S ORIGINAL PO’BOYS~ projects. First, Saison will be opening at 178 Townsend, in the Arc Light Co. building. Scoop confirms the owners, chef Joshua Skenes and sommelier Mark Bright, plan to move into the 4,000-square-foot space—as for what they’re doing there, well, stand by for details soon. And, for now, Saison (and its massive Molteni stove) are staying where they are.

As for Brenda’s upcoming project, she will be moving into the combined spaces of 1406-1408 Fillmore Street at Eddy. Yup, Fillmore rising.


The new counter at Victoria. Photo by Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The café area of Victoria, and it’s right by the park! Photo by Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The exterior of the upcoming Le Marais Bakery. Photo from Facebook.

Good news, fans of princess cake and little Italian cookies: 98-year-old ~VICTORIA PASTRY CO.~ has completed their move to a new North Beach location, across from Washington Square Park. It just opened over the weekend. Hours for now are Sun-Thu 7am-7pm, and Fri-Sat 7am-8pm (or 9pm—time will tell). 700 Filbert St. at Powell, 415-781-2015.

On Saturday while selling my new tablehopper T-shirts at the SF Street Food Festival, a friendly couple came by my table to say hello and tell me about their new project, ~LE MARAIS BAKERY~, which Eater just noticed was opening in the former Jamba Juice space in the Marina. Patrick Ascaso and his wife Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso will be opening the bakery in late fall.

It will be an artisanal, organic bakery inspired by the boulangeries that Patrick loved while growing up in Paris, though it will have a Northern California influence with locally sourced ingredients. Think breads, pastries, scones, quiches, sandwiches, and pissaladière. Paxton Gate (who did the design for Flour + Water) will be doing the design and build. They are currently in demolition and have discovered many of the building’s original features (like a great skylight) that were covered up. Stand by for more in the coming weeks. 2066 Chestnut St. at Steiner.


The Tejano burger. Photo: ©

This Friday August 24th, ~ROAM ARTISAN BURGERS~ will be opening their second location, at 1923 Fillmore in Pacific Heights. The new spot will feature the same well-sourced burgers, delicious housemade sodas, and rockin’ Straus Creamery milk shakes available at the Union Street location. In the burger department, look for the addition of ostrich meat for all you exotic meat aficionados. The birds will be sourced from O.K. Corral Ostrich Farm and join a lineup of patty options that includes grass-fed beef, turkey, bison, and vegetarian. There will be beer and vino on tap, including the spicy Allagash White, a dry rosé of Grenache from Boat Dock, and a variety of red wines.

Anthony Fish and his team at Arcanum have come up with a design that makes use of lots of reclaimed wood, railroad ties, and a long community table. The aesthetic will be similar to the Union Street location, with some cool alcove seating. Hours will be seven days a week, 11:30am-10pm. The new location is at 1923 Fillmore St. at Pine. 415-800-7801.


Interior of Small Foods. Yelp photo by Bruce S.


Shabuway. Yelp photo by Cheryl Q.

Grub Street notes a new lunch spot called ~SMALL FOODS~ has opened in South Park, which the architect-owners are calling “sort of a gourmet 7-11, with a small café up front.” Think soup, sandwiches, sushi, salads, and more; beer and wine is coming soon. Mon-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 8am-6pm (contingent on game days). 522 2nd St. at Taber.

Looks like there’s going to be another grilled cheese outpost in the neighborhood: a location of ~THE MELT~ will be opening in October at 710 3rd Street and Townsend, next door to Lucky Strike. (Also worth mentioning: they’re doing a free day at the grand opening of their new Berkeley store this Thursday from 7am-12am at Telegraph and Channing. The secret password to get access will be posted on their Facebook page.)

Liquor license activity reveals the owners of ~YUMMY YUMMY~ have closed Y&Y Vietnamese Deli on Clement, and instead have opened ~Y&Y VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT~. Chowhound mentions it’s more of a sit-down vibe than the casual Yummy Yummy in the Inner Sunset. Yummy Yummy’s food rocks, so I’m excited to check it out. Yelp mentions banh mi, pho, and larger dishes and rice plates; hours are Mon, Wed-Sun 10am-9pm. 914 Clement St. at 10th Ave., 415-387-2938.

Also in the Richmond, owner Eiichi Mochizuki has opened the fifth location of ~SHABUWAY~ (but the first in SF) serving quality meats like prime Angus beef, American Kobe beef, American Kobe lean beef, Niman Ranch lamb, and Kurobuta pork. (Vegetarians will also have plenty of options.) Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-2pm and 5:30pm-10pm, Sat 12pm-10pm, and Sun 12pm-9pm. 5120 Geary Blvd. at 15th Ave., 415-668-6080.


20 for $20 promo photo courtesy of Kyo-Ya (via SFoodie).

Scoop reports The Palace Hotel’s very traditional ~KYO-YA~ is closing on September 21st after 20 years in business. Lunch and dinner will be served for the next month; the space is currently on the market. 2 New Montgomery St. at Market (in the Palace Hotel), 415-546-5090.


Americano photo by Cesar Rubio.

A couple of special seafood suppers this week: ~AMERICANO~ at Hotel Vitale is hosting its first ever Oceanic Dinner this Thursday August 23rd. Not only will chef Kory Stewart and his team prepare the Oceanic meal, they will catch the seafood themselves beforehand! The final menu will be determined by the day’s catch, but sample menu items may include charred Half Moon Bay octopus with tomato passata, wild fennel, and oil-cured olives. Seating begins at 6:30pm. $95 per person for four courses, inclusive of hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Reservations are required: 415-278-3777.

And from Thursday August 23rd-Sunday August 26th, chef Alicia Jenish of ~GRAND CAFÉ~ is hosting another one of her Misfit Dinners: this one will feature cephalopods! Think octopus, calamari, and more showing up in special dishes like an octopus terrine or housemade sausage-stuffed local squid.

Alicia is also teaching a cooking class on Saturday August 25th, demonstrating how to roast a leg of lamb in a bed of hay, plus panzanella and grilled marinated peppers. Tickets are $25. 2:30pm-4pm. Attendees that have brunch at Grand Café before the class receive 10 percent off of their brunch bill.


Everything bagel from Beauty’s; photo via Facebook.

Good news: ~BEAUTY’S BAGEL SHOP~ is verrrrry close to opening its shop this week, potentially Wednesday or Thursday. East Bay Express has more on these Montreal-style wood-fired beauties coming our way. Tentative hours: Tue-Fri 7am-6pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm. 3838 Telegraph Ave. at 38th St., Oakland, 510-788-6098.

Back in May, I reported on ~PORTAL~ restaurant opening on Lake Merritt. East Bay Dish confirms it’s now open. Mon-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm. 1611 2nd Ave. at Foothill, Oakland, 510-663-7678.

East Bay residents can take advantage of the new patio seating at ~DISTRICT OAKLAND~ available Mon-Sat from 4pm until close. There’s room for 15 guests—and it’s sure to be the coveted spot when brunch launches next month. 827 Washington St. at 9th St., Oakland, 510-272-9110.

Over in Berkeley, Berkeleyside shares that ~FOURNÉE BAKERY~ will be opening in the former Bread Garden space. Pastry chef Frank Sally plans to open before the end of the year. 2912 Domingo Ave. at Russell, Berkeley.

Opening Friday August 24th is ~SKETCH ICE CREAM~. As previously reported in tablehopper, the new space is three times as large as its original spot. Eater mentions: “There will be a food menu with bacon-Gruyère scones, Belgian waffles, empanadas, and Sightglass coffee.” 2080 4th St. at Addison, Berkeley.


The bar at Lincoln Park. Photo by Kari Zanotto.

Now open in San Anselmo is ~LINCOLN PARK WINE BAR~. The new spot is intent on serving the neighborhood delicious wine and food, with a focus on local pours and seasonal ingredients. Chef Steve Simmons will change the menu every day, and it will be posted on their Facebook page before opening. The plates are built for sharing and are reasonably priced to encourage adventurous ordering. As an added bonus, they’ll be open Thu-Sat until midnight, making it one of only a handful of spots open late in Marin. Hours are Sun-Wed 4:30pm-10pm, and Thu-Sat 4:30pm-12am. 198 Sir Francis Drake Blvd. at Bank, San Anselmo, 415-453-9898.