July 7, 2020

July 7, 2020
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Crudo Calabrese (salmon, halibut, scallops). All photos: © tablehopper.com.

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The exterior at the end of the night.

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Lobster ravioli in a tomato, cream, and brandy sauce.

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Rigatoni with octopus, ‘nduja, and tomato sauce.

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Classic San Francisco-style cioppino.

Restaurateur Francesco Covucci (Il Casaro, Barbara) and his business partner Peter Fazio have decided to transform their two-year-old Pasta Pop-Up location in North Beach into a San Francisco seafood restaurant and retail market: ~CALIFORNIA FISH MARKET RESTAURANT~. It’s exactly the kind of quality and fairly priced SF seafood experience any visitor to North Beach would be thrilled to discover (it’s more elusive than it should be in this town), and one that locals will have plenty to return for, whether they’re coming by for squid ink spaghetti with squid, clams, and cherry tomatoes (fortunately, this dish is a holdover from the Pasta Pop-Up menu) or buying some freshly caught halibut to bring home for dinner.

I went on Friday night for their soft-opening, and the location is in the middle of the lively street party that Green Street has transformed into. It is a SCENE, complete with low-riders and even the fire truck ringing its bell hello as it drove by Gino & Carlo’s. There are shielded tables under a canopy in front of the restaurant (there are heat lamps!), and they’ve also taken over a parking space in front with fake grass and socially distant tables that are partially shielded under Lettieri & Co. pop-up tents (which I have been happy to see all over North Beach—way to support your restaurant accounts!).

Covucci was inspired to help our local fishermen by offering a seafood-heavy menu and market since the demand from restaurants is way down and suppliers are hurting. The menu offers a combination of classic SF seafood preparations, some Italian dishes (there are nine pasta options), and a few Italian-American items to keep those out-of-towners happy (fettuccine Alfredo, I’m looking at you).

You can start with some quality oysters (my first oysters in almost four months, it was a moment). There are choice Miyagi, Shigoku, Kusshi, and Kumamoto oysters, shucked beautifully, and the crudo Calabrese comes with an option of halibut, scallops, salmon, or a combo for $27 (similar to the off-the-menu Sicilian sashimi plate at Swan Oyster Depot).

Some other SF classic starters include crab, prawn, or Spanish octopus cocktail; salads like bay shrimp or crab Louie; and there’s also some fantastic and deftly prepared grilled calamari ($11), with the option of grilled prawns, or spicy baby Spanish octopus stew, or sautéed mussels and clams, or fried Monterey squid, prawns, and zucchini. I like how simply prepared the dishes are, allowing the freshness of the seafood to shine (in true Italian style), and the menu is pretty extensive.

It will be hard to resist the sexy whistle (oh yoooohooooo) from the lobster ravioli in a tomato, cream, and brandy sauce ($21.95), and the rigatoni with octopus, ‘nduja, and tomato sauce ($21.95) let me pretend I was in a seaside town in Calabria for a hot second. I’ll be back for the linguine alle vongole (always a fave) and bucatini with bottarga (both $21.50).

Main courses include local salmon, halibut, a mixed grilled selection, and our SF trademark: cioppino ($39)—it’s a hearty portion you’ll want to share, a tomato broth topped with mussels, clams, scallops, calamari, shrimp, rock fish, and crab (perfect for our foggy summer weather). It’s tough to get all the seafood timed right, but everything was tender and just right. There are also a couple sandwiches ($14-$16): spicy octopus or fried fish (cod) on ciabatta, along with beer-battered fish and chips ($19), if you’re looking for a casual lunch.

The wine list has plenty of seafood-friendly Italian whites and six sparkling choices (of course, I’m happy with that), Italian reds, and some low-ABV Italian cocktails, including a spritz and Negroni Sbagliato, or a Michelada to go with your oysters.

The retail part is just ramping up: you can get oysters by the dozen, king salmon, Dungeness crab meat, whole rock fish, white shrimp, scallops, and more. Fresh pasta is coming soon.

Seafood is such a special treat, especially when you’re in North Beach at a restaurant that cares about quality and sustainability, and it’s one of those things many people prefer someone else prepare for them. Well, here’s your new spot. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-10pm. 550 Green St. at Stockton, 415-757-0918.

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The interior at Nopalito Sunset. Photo via Nopalito’s Facebook page.

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Petit Crenn during the daytime. Photo via Facebook.

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The whimsical new design at Indian Paradox from Lorena Zertuche. Honk honk! Photo: Grace Sager Photography.

I really hate to start reporting on permanent closures, but it’s happening, and will continue to do so in these brutal times. In case you missed the news elsewhere, our dear ~NOPALITO~ has decided to close their Sunset location on Ninth Street since catering business has dried up, and that was a big part of the location’s output. They’re moving their kitchen to the 18 Reasons space in the Mission to keep up the production of their take-home kits and to be ready when catering starts to return. Within a month, they will be offering carnitas tacos and more for takeout (how handy, they’re just by Dolores Park) through the Bi-Rite Creamery soft-serve ice cream window. You can read more in this Hoodline piece. Fortunately, the original Broderick Street location remains open for takeout and delivery.

Dominique Crenn has decided to temporarily close ~PETIT CRENN~ in Hayes Valley until 2021. In an Instagram post, she announced, “In the meantime, we are thrilled to be partnered with @rethinkfood.nyc and utilizing this kitchen to help feed the hungry. Stay tuned for popup announcements and invitations to come out and support.” I’m curious to see what other local kitchens convert to this model…

I checked in with Kavitha Raghavan of ~INDIAN PARADOX~, the Indian street food wine bar on Divisadero, and sadly she does not see a path to reopening with such a tiny space, so she has made the hard decision to close the business. It makes me so sad to see the special place she worked so hard to create, her dream, have to close. Kavitha (and chef Maribel Palomo!), thank you so much for all the heartfelt meals and wine discoveries for the past four-plus years, and offering our city a cozy little place that felt so personal. I loved sitting at your bar, and was so in love with the recent update from Lorena Zertuche…all that color. You will be missed! (And your eggs akuri, and bhel puri, and chile cheese toast.) Gah, this is making me cry. With love and thanks! Thank you for following your heart and dream! You created a unique experience that only you could do. 258 Divisadero St. at Haight.

Over in the Tenderloin, Juanita More let me know about a couple closures in her neighborhood: ~TOWN CUTLER~ has reportedly closed their location at 1005 Bush St. (More did a collaborative Pride 2020 knife set with them, pink handles and all), but you can still visit their Reno store or work with them via the mail. More news: neighborhood stalwart ~THEM KY~—known for its affordable and authentic homestyle Vietnamese dishes, along with some Chinese dishes and combo plates—has closed after 27 years. I hope they can enjoy their retirement, that is quite a run. 717 Ellis St. at Larkin.

A change-up is coming to ~EKO KITCHEN~ in August: owner Simileoluwa Adebajo is going to be leaving her first brick-and-mortar location in SoMa and moving to a new location in the Mission in August, and only offering delivery, online ordering, and pick-up. (Be sure to order from her in the meantime.) San Francisco’s only Nigerian restaurant will be at 160 14th St. at S. Van Ness.

I was so sorry to see ~OLD JERUSALEM~ suffered a fire just before the Fourth of July, and illegal fireworks are the potential culprit. And this, after they just recently moved locations, ugh. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but they’ve posted a GoFundMe to help support their employees as they will be closed for several months to repair the roof and water damage. 2966 Mission St. at 26th St.

Across the Bay, Nosh has the story behind the closure of the Indigenous ~CAFE OHLONE~ due to the closure of Berkeley’s 46-year-old University Press Books (the restaurant hosted its special gatherings on the back patio). They’re going to be looking for another location, and hope to launch a takeout box in the fall.

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