November 13, 2012

November 13, 2012

Tony Gemignani in front of Capo’s. Photo: ©


The dining area (with seven tons of brick wall). Photo: ©


The big booths (with the custom bench addition) and the phone booth in the back. Photo: ©


The Deco-inspired, custom wood bar. Photo: ©

At long last—and after a year of originally hearing the news that Tony Gemignani (of famed Tony’s Pizza Napoletana) was opening a new restaurant in the former Pulcinella space on Vallejo—he gets to open ~CAPO’S~ this Friday November 16th. Capo’s is going to be quite an anchor on Vallejo Street, with its vintage-inspired neon sign shining brightly among the vacant businesses with shuttered windows.

As soon as you walk through the elegant front doors, you’re going to feel transported to another place: think Chicago, spanning the 1920s-1950s (complete with some dark, dramatic lighting). To the left, there’s a meat slicer in the window and a long custom Deco-inspired wood bar running along the left wall; in between the bar and the dining room there’s a low dividing wall, with daily newspapers waiting on them for lunchtime customers to read. To the right are large booths and a banquette, all with tufted backs in oxblood leather. I love the additional bench seat that can be added to the coveted booths—and each booth has a round picture of famous mob bosses above it on the brick walls (made with seven tons of 100-year-old brick). While the name capo means “boss”—and you’ll find plenty of gangster memorabilia—there are also pictures of Feds counting money and other nods to Chicago culture, from baseball to beers.

The ceiling is made of pressed tin, the floors are cork, there’s a functioning 1930s-era phone booth (you can call anywhere in the U.S. for free), and the plates are classic Niagara china. The restaurant used to be the site of Adolph’s in the 1950s, and on the back wall, you’ll see it featured in a vintage oil mural on canvas of Vallejo Street. (Tony is trying to track down the original artist—he found the artwork rolled up on the site.)

Tony tells me he had the idea for the place about four years ago; he has been working on the six styles of pizza he’s serving for a while. Since deep-dish pizza takes a longer time to bake (and therefore guests stay longer at the table), he knew he needed to dedicate a restaurant just to this style of pizza. There are four traditional Chicago styles you will find: cracker-thin crust (it doesn’t have any fat in it and is served in squares), deep dish, stuffed (which is like deep dish but comes with a lid of dough and sauce on top), and cast-iron (the crust is cooked in lard). He’s using Ceresota flour (no one else can get it out here), and the sausage mix he’s doing is a combo of Chicago sausage that he has shipped here and housemade Calabrese.

Another special pizza you’ll see is the “quattro forni”—a pizza cooked in four different ovens (there are only 20 available per day)—and lastly, there will be a gluten-free option coming too. There are also Chicago classic dishes like baked mostaccioli, chicken Vesuvio, and, of course, a Chicago beef sandwich at lunch—also look for a lot of dishes being finished in the wood-burning oven, like the lasagna. Take a look at the entire menu here—and check out the custom-designed pizza box by Jeremy Fish.

The bar is primarily dedicated to whiskey, and if you order the Chicago cocktail, the vintage National register on the bar will be put to use (and you get a $1 token off your next Chicago).

Dinner is served Mon and Wed-Thu, and lunch and dinner are served Fri-Sun (you can swing by for a slice and salad at lunch, or a Vienna dog). Reservations can be made by phone only (and you might want to call for one now, because the book is filling up: 415-986-8998). A couple more things to note: there will be valet parking, but the joint is cash only. Capone would approve.


The new Little Chihuahua. Photo courtesy The Little Chihuahua.


The pho ga at Turtle Tower. Photo: ©


Chef Michael Mauschbaugh of sous beurre kitchen. Photo via Facebook.


Kitchen Story. Photo courtesy GrubStreet.

The third location of ~THE LITTLE CHIHUAHUA~ is now open on Valencia. As previously reported on tablehopper, they’ve taken over the former Urbun Burger space. The menu will be the same as the other locations—except they won’t be doing nachos and enchiladas for now; something new and exciting will be replacing them soon. Beer and wine. Open 11am-10pm daily. 581 Valencia St. at 17th St., 415-355-9144.

Well, San Francisco State University students will be happy to learn ~TURTLE TOWER~ is opening another location in the Student Center on Monday November 26th. Hours will be Mon-Fri 10am-6pm, although it will be closed during winter break. West Plaza Alcove B, 1650 Holloway Ave., C-134.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, owner Brian Cassanego is going to be opening ~NOIR~ in the former Frjtz in Hayes Valley, and it looks like the soft opening will be happening in mid-December. Here’s a preliminary peek at the menu. Per Diem’s chef, Adam Hinojosa, is consulting on the menu, which offers everything from popcorn with different toppings to herbed frites three different ways (with lemon aioli, or tossed in béarnaise and topped with an egg, or tossed in short rib gravy with smoked cheese curds); wild mushroom crêpe with a sunny-side up egg and Parmesan broth; salads; and larger entrées like fried chicken and waffles (pumpkin waffle, chicken sausage gravy, sage honey butter, spinach), and adobo pork stew.

The wine list by sommelier Gianna Gaudini will feature 25-30 by-the-glass options, 50-60 bottles, and 4-6 selections on tap; there will be a chilled wine cellar ensuring wines are stored and served at the proper temp. As a reminder, the decor is inspired by film noir and the Jazz Age (Gi Paoletti Design Lab is behind the design). The film lounge area in the back will screen black-and-white movies, and music will span from jazz to trip hop, although they are hoping to be able to have a live jazz duo play, plus offer outdoor seating. 581 Hayes St. at Laguna.

Meanwhile, over in the Mission, pop-up ~SOUS BEURRE KITCHEN~ is moving from its digs inside Sugarlump Café to a permanent space. Chef-owner Michael Mauschbaugh hopes to open next summer; sbk’s last service at Sugarlump will be December 14th, although he will be popping up now and then. 2704/2706 24th St. at Potrero St.

Grub Street shares details on ~KITCHEN STORY~, the restaurant that is taking over Tangerine in the Castro. The couple, Steven and Ji Yeon Choi, also own Sweet Maple and Blackwood in the Marina. Look for an all-day California menu with “a few Asian twists”; peep at the menu here. The soft opening is scheduled for November 19th. 3499 16th St. at Sanchez.

Lastly, was sorry to learn in Haighteration that my neighborhood Thai place, ~THAI PLACE II~ at 312 Divisadero St., has new owners who will be making changes in the new year, including a new name: ~SA-BEANG THAI~. Meanwhile, the former ~CHILLI CHA CHA~ (494 Haight St.) is going to be ~TERRIFIC THAI~.


The interior at Dandelion Chocolate. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The bean roaster. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©


The final product! Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. ©

A report by Dana Massey-Todd: Another project along the Valencia corridor is getting ready to open on Wednesday November 14th. As previously reported on tablehopper, the newest addition, ~DANDELION CHOCOLATE~, is taking the third remaining space at 740 Valencia, alongside Abbot’s Cellar and Craftsman and Wolves.

The project comes from partners Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring (with the help of Alice Nystrom), and is not only a retail outpost for their bean-to-bar chocolate, but also functions as their factory. Visitors will be able to tour the factory and observe the entire process of chocolate-making, from the bean to the final wrapping. They roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conche, and temper the chocolate on site, and then mold it into bars and wrap it in beautiful packaging.

For now, they will just be operating the factory and selling chocolate bars out of the retail area, but there’s more to come. Soon, they’ll have a café up and running, with hot chocolate drinks, some chocolaty pastries, and other offerings. The final menu hasn’t been finalized yet, but they want to keep it focused on chocolate. As Masonis pointed out, they are right next to Craftsman and Wolves, and within walking distance of Tartine and Ritual Coffee. Rather than compete with these businesses, they’ll stick with what they know best: all things chocolate.

As they get going, they’ll also be participating in some exclusive collaborations, like Dandelion Chocolate-covered confections from Kika’s Treats, which will be available exclusively at their retail location.

The space, like its neighbors, features ever-so-high ceilings and lovely natural light. They haven’t attempted to hide the fact that this is a factory; rather, they’ve embraced the natural beauty of their equipment and made it a focal point. The lighting is all very vintage industrial, and the space is spare. There is some handsome wooden shelving and nice long tables, and most of the signage is either repurposed cocoa bean bags or chalkboards. Check back for more updates as the café gets closer to opening. For now, hours are Wed-Fri 12pm-4pm and Sat 11am-6pm. 740 Valencia St. at 18th St., 415-349-0942.


Mandarin mousse cake; photo courtesy of Chocolate Lab.

As previously mentioned on tablehopper, Michael Recchiuti’s ~CHOCOLATE LAB~ is opening this Friday November 16th in Dogpatch. The Lab will have a variety of offerings, and will be open for lunch, dinner, drinks, and everything in between. You’ll be able to select something off the savory menu of tartines on Firebrand bread (like bay shrimp, or chickpea and vegetables), or cheese and charcuterie plates. And, of course, there will be a dessert menu with chocolate and caramel plated desserts, plus cookies, pastries, chocolate confections, ice cream, and hot and cold chocolate drinks. (I can’t wait to try the bittersweet chocolate custard.) Adult beverages (think vino, vermouth and sherry cocktails, local beers) along with soft drinks, coffee, and tea will also be available.

There are 23 seats inside and some seats outside on the Tennessee Street side, weather permitting. Also worth noting: just a few doors down is the Little Nib retail shop (807 22nd St.). Hours are Sun 12 pm-5pm, Tue-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm (closed Sun evenings and all day Mon for private bookings). 801 22nd St. at Tennessee, 415-489-2881.


The bar at Gitane. Photo by Jeff Dow via Facebook.

Some closures around town: first, ~SEASONS RESTAURANT~ at Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco has closed for a renovation; look for a new restaurant and concept in late May 2013. In the meantime, dining service is still available daily in Seasons Bar and Lounge for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails from 6:30am-12am.

Scoop reports Klaus and Albert Rainer have closed ~CAFE METROPOL~ after almost 20 years of business. Seems they are working on a new project; stand by. 168 Sutter St. at Kearny.

I was sorry to read on Twitter Friday evening that ~GITANE~ suffered a fire. The restaurant is currently closed, and they are aiming to reopen Thursday November 15th. Fortunately no one was injured.

Up in Mill Valley, a tipster let me know that ~HAWK’S TAVERN~ had closed. 507 Miller Ave. at Camino Alto, Mill Valley.


Chef David Lawrence with the MythBusters crew. Photo courtesy 1300 on Fillmore.

As we all know, MythBusters is all about the pressing questions in life. On Sunday November 18th, the big one is “Does it really taste like chicken?” The MythBusters team called on local chef David Lawrence of ~1300 ON FILLMORE~ to prepare exotic meats in the style of his famous fried chicken, and see if it tasted like chicken or something more, well, exotic. The restaurant will be screening the episode at 5pm and again at 8pm on Sunday, and you can partake in the adventure with the $5 “Tastes like Chicken” special, which includes three bite-size samples of exotic meat, plus a chicken sample. Make your best guesses, and the people with the correct answers will be put in a raffle. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant.

Also on Sunday November 18th, transport yourself to Italia with a special Italian wine dinner at ~HEIRLOOM CAFÉ~. They’ll be serving a six-course dinner, all of it inspired by the cuisine of Italy. Each course will be paired with a heavy hitter of Italian wine, including a 2004 ‘Granato’ from Foradori. The full menu, pairings, and tickets can be found here. The dinner starts at 6pm and costs $95 per person, including food, wine, tax, and tip.

There are only two more prix-fixe Monday dinners at ~JARDINIÈRE~ this year, and they are extra-special ones. On Monday November 19th, catch guest chef Ken Tominaga and sake sommelier Stuart Morris of Hana Japanese Restaurant. Take a look at the menu here. The dinner costs $75, including five courses and sake pairings. Then, for the final Monday prix-fixe, porchetta is on the menu, and will be featured in three courses; the dinner costs $49. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling the restaurant.


The many faces of Mina. Photo courtesy SF Chefs website.

The SF Chefs Dinner Party Project continues this fall, with three more dinners to check out. As mentioned in tablehopper in the spring, these events are pretty cool, because a collection of chefs get together to prepare some exciting food, which doesn’t happen all that often. This fall, cozy up to these dinners that give a special nod to chef friendships. You can find all the details and tickets here. Tickets range from $130-$190 for Visa Signature cardholders and include beverages and gratuity (yay). A portion of all proceeds will benefit the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for victims of Hurricane Sandy too. What’s not to love?

On Tuesday, November 27th at 6:30pm, it’s Maximum Mina, at ~RN74~ with Michael Mina himself and many of his friends and alumni from his kitchens. And, for a fun twist, Mina will be doing the sweets at this dinner, while his pastry chef, Lincoln Carson, tries out the savory courses. Wine pairings will be from Rajat Parr (Mina Group). Chefs Omri Aflalo (Bourbon Steak), Jason Berthold (RN74), and Ron Siegel (Michael Mina) will also be in attendance.

Thursday November 29th at 7pm it’s all about soul with Soulful Supper Club. David Lawrence (1300 on Fillmore), Emily Luchetti (Farallon and Waterbar), and Hoss Zaré (Zaré at Fly Trap) will be serving soul food from their various backgrounds, alongside a lot of warm personality, at ~1300 ON FILLMORE~.

Then, on Monday December 3rd at 7pm, make sure you Mind Your SPQRs and AQs with Mark Liberman of AQ and Matthew Accarrino of SPQR. These two will be serving multiple courses of bold, seasonal food, with both wine and cocktail pairings. The dinner will take place at ~AQ~.


La Cocina’s 2011 Gift Bazaar. Photo from Facebook.

The holiday season is indeed approaching (I know, I know). I’m not the only one with a calendar that’s already getting jammed, so I wanted to get these two shopping events on your radar. Join me and let’s celebrate the holidays by avoiding the mall and supporting local purveyors of good stuff. On Saturday December 1st, check out the Meet Market at ~BLUXOME STREET WINERY~. There will be a whole bunch of local vendors, including yours truly, the tablehopper. That’s right, I’ll be there, hawking my books and fun vintage T-shirts, so come say hi and check ‘em out. 1pm-6pm. 53 Bluxome St. at 4th St.

And on Friday December 7th from 1pm-6pm, ~LA COCINA~ will be throwing their fourth-annual Gift Bazaar at the Crocker Galleria, so put that on your calendar too. Yes, I’ll be there as well. More details coming soon! 50 Post St. at Montgomery.


SF FoodLab sets the stage for lots of popping up. Photo from Facebook.

Seems like there’s always something new at ~SF FOODLAB~, and this month is no exception. Check out their newest pop-up, ChefRoulette, on Sundays from 10am-2pm. Each weekend, a different chef will be on hand preparing brunch, and they’ve got bottomless mimosas and free sparkling wine too. The chef and menu changes weekly; this week’s guest is Nick’s Wheely Good Breakfast, who will be serving some Cuban-inspired dishes that sound fantastico. Then, in December, chef Ryan Baker of Coi, Manresa, and Delfina, will be take his turn at the stove. For future chef updates and details, check out their Facebook page. 1106 Market St. at 7th St., 415-834-5348.

As previously reported on tablehopper, Vinyl on Divisadero will be playing host to the fine fellows of ~EASTERN ADDITION~ on Wednesdays this month. Desi Danganan and Tim Luym (previously of the Summit and Poleng Lounge) and Jacobo Juarez (Som) are in the Burmese phase of their dinners for the next two weeks. Reservations can be made by emailing them your name, phone number, and number of diners in your group; you can also call 415-952-6198. 6pm-11pm. 359 Divisadero St. at Oak, 415-621-4132.

If you’re not quite ready for months of indoor living yet, head down to ~MISSION DISPATCH~ on Saturday November 17th for The Camp-In. Alite Designs will bring their tents and chairs to the yard, but you should also BYO camping gear (think camping chairs, headlamps, and the like) while watching the summer camp classic Wet Hot American Summer. Rice Paper Scissors will be serving Vietnamese street food and some special movie- and camping-themed snacks, like flavored popcorn and s’mores. You can peer at the menu here. The event begins at 4pm, and dinner will be served 4pm-7pm. The movie begins at 6:30pm, and they’ll be selling “concessions” from 6:30pm-9pm. Entry is free; food prices vary from $3 to $11. 1975 Bryant St. at 18th St.


The interior at Belcampo Meat Co. Photo by Jack Schow.


The counter at Grand Lake Kitchen; photo courtesy of Facebook.

New, Yreka-based ranch ~BELCAMPO MEAT CO.~ has opened their first retail shop, in Larkspur’s Marin Country Mart. The space houses a full-scale butcher shop, including beef, pork, lamb, and poultry. They also sometimes stock rabbit and goat, plus specialty poultry items, depending on the season. They are currently taking orders for holiday turkey and goose, so now’s the time to check it out. The retail mercantile also sells Blue Bottle coffee, rillette, terrines, and other locally-sourced gourmet products. If all that grocery shopping piques your appetite, you can order a casual breakfast or lunch while you’re there. The butcher shop and mercantile is open 9am-8pm daily, and the restaurant is open 9am-3pm daily. 2405 Larkspur Landing Circle, Building 4, Larkspur. 415-448-5810.

As reported earlier on tablehopper (although back then it was called La Grand Jatte Kitchen), now open near Lake Merritt is ~GRAND LAKE KITCHEN~. The deli/diner from May Seto (previously a GM at Delfina and wine buyer for The PlumpJack Group) serves healthy and affordable sandwiches, salads, and take-home items (take a look at the menu here). There’s a 12-seat counter and outdoor tables—and then there’s the lake, just out the door. Open Mon-Sat 10:30am-7:30pm. 576 Grand Ave. at El Embarcadero, Oakland, 510-922-9582.