April 12, 2022

April 12, 2022
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The new Uccello Lounge in Civic Center. Photo courtesy of Uccello Lounge.

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Potato straw mats and caviar. Photo courtesy of Uccello Lounge.

Recently, a dear friend and I were wondering aloud about the whereabouts of chef Loretta Keller and how she was doing as we all slowly make our way out of bunkers. It’s like the universe must have heard us, because I just received an email from her business partner Clay Reynolds, announcing the opening of their latest project together, ~UCCELLO LOUNGE~. Chirp chirp! (Uccello means “bird” in Italian.)

The restaurant and lounge is on the ground floor of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s new building, the Bowes Center, which is just across from Davies Symphony Hall. (Perhaps you have noticed the recitals happening in the top floor? Looks so cool.) It ends up the building now houses Conservatory students, and they needed to be fed (all 450 of them!), so chef Keller was approached to help create an in-house food program. (For the past 10 years, she has run a restaurant and café with Reynolds at The Exploratorium, the Seismic Joint Café and Seaglass Restaurant in the Bay Observatory.) The concept for the lounge and restaurant on the ground floor was added as another component, and now the team is juggling the student food program and opening a restaurant—it’s quite the undertaking (any restaurant that cooked for SF New Deal during the pandemic understands the double-duty demands).

Uccello Lounge has 55 seats, offering seating at both a horseshoe bar and at tables. Take a look at Keller’s peak season menu here, which includes upscale bar snacks like steak tartare ($22) with nasturtium leaves and puffed rice; the pictured potato straw mats and caviar ($35) with trout roe caviar, crème fraîche, and dill; and former COCO500 fans will be happy to see the return of the flatbread, a truffled mushroom flatbread ($17) with crème fraîche, Parmesan, and sea salt.

There are also small and large dishes, like buckwheat and ricotta cavatelli, chilled Delta asparagus with sauce gribiche and a seven-minute farm egg, and lamb shoulder Saint-Menehould with roasted artichokes, Niçoise olives, wild fennel, spring onions, and green garlic. It all sounds so delicious. Reynolds has assembled a list of wines by the glass, both from California as well as some Old World selections. You’ll also see a cocktail list, with three zero-proof options as well.

Here’s the extra-fun part: every evening, starting at 8pm, there’s live music from SFCM students and graduates, from trios to classical strings and contemporary pieces, too. Pretty fabulous, no? Hours for now are Thu-Sat 5pm-11pm, making it an ideal stop before or after nearby performances, with plans to extend to Wednesday evenings in time. Reservations are available. 200 Van Ness Ave. at Hayes.

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Amanda Nguyen has the keys to a new Butter& location. Photo courtesy of Butter&.

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A selection of dishes at Il Casaro Castro: smoked burrata, mortadella and pistachio pizza, and pasta with summer squash and shrimp. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

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Photo from Souvla.

It looks like the former Dosa on Fillmore location has new takers: SF Business Times reports the team behind Taj Campton Place Restaurant and Ettan in Palo Alto—chef Srijith Gopinathan and business partner Ayesha Thapar—as well as the recently opened Little Blue Door at State Street Market in Los Altos, will be opening a project in six or seven months. Details are forthcoming, but the space will be undergoing a major renovation into a landmark-style restaurant. You can read a recap in SFist. 1700 Fillmore St. at Post.

Moving into the beautifully designed Noon All Day space in Dogpatch will be a ~BUTTER&~ cake shop from Amanda Nguyen (who also owns Pastel delivery) with her life and business partner, Ted Moran. It will be the first storefront for her buttercream cakes, and a new individual-sized cake will be available, five different flavors in all (stand by for some chef collaborations too); tea service will also be offered. They plan to open this summer. 690 Indiana St. at 19th St.

Francesco Covucci (Il Casaro, CA Fish Market Restaurant) will be opening a new project in Cow Hollow, in the former Contrada. It’s going to be a hybrid concept of his popular North Beach and Castro pizzeria, ~IL CASARO~ and ~CA FISH MARKET RESTAURANT ~. The plan is to offer a variety of seafood (oysters, crudi, caviar, clams, mussels), as well as four-five pizzas, and a bunch of sparkling rosé. (Sounds like my kind of heaven.) The location has an awesome back deck, making it a perfect hangout. They’re planning to open in September, once the liquor license transfers over, and, of course, staffing takes time these days. 2136 Union St. at Webster.

Meanwhile, ~SOUVLA~ is opening their fifth location in Dogpatch this May in the former Magnolia Brewing Co. space. Since it’s such a spacious location, the team will be expanding the wine list with even more by-the-glass Greek selections and adding traditional mezes, including dips and hand pies. Hours will be daily 11am-10pm. 2505 3rd St. at 22nd St.

Some great news: after being denied approval to open due to SF’s formula retail restrictions,~EL FAROLITO~ will be opening after all in North Beach in the former The House space, thanks to some intervention from Supervisor Aaron Peskin. Read more back story here in the Chronicle. It’s due to open this month. Bring on the “Bosses burrito.” 1230 Grant Ave. at Columbus.

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Creamy shoyu ramen at Menya Kanemaru Golden Ramen. Instagram photo via @menyakanemaruvalencia.

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Chicken choila wraps at Piroo. Yelp photo by Piroo.

Some new openings around town include ~MIJOTÉ~, the new French bistro with a prix-fixe menu ($82) that will change weekly with the seasons, alongside a list of natural wines. Chef Kosuke Tada and his wife Grace turned the former Sasaki space around quickly (I just mentioned this project barely a month ago!), and reservations are now open (walk-ins are also welcome). Open Fri-Tue 5pm-9pm. 2400 Harrison St. at 20th St.

I’ve been keeping an eye on ~MENYA KANEMARU GOLDEN RAMEN~ after reading about its upcoming opening on WhatNowSF, and this updated concept inside the former Orenchi Beyond is now open (under the same owners). The all-day menu is now focused on appetizers (both hot and cold), ramen (including some vegan and gluten-free options), and a variety of bento boxes—you can flip through the menu sections here. Open Sun-Mon 11am-9:30pm, Tue-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm. Delivery is also available. 174 Valencia St. at Duboce.

There’s a new Nepali-fusion spot called ~PIROO~ in Lower Nob Hill, serving an eclectic menu of bar bites and tapas, including chicken choila wraps in lettuce cups or bowls, ceviche, pani puri, a beet salad, and more. They’re also offering $2 oysters and a second round of any drink is on the house (they have local beers and an edited wine list). OK then! Open daily 11am-9pm. 1101 Polk St. at Post.

~EL PORTEÑO EMPANADAS~ just opened a new location near Oracle Park. You can easily pick up their Argentinian empanadas before or after a baseball game. Open Mon-Fri 8am-5pm, Saturdays coming soon. 700 2nd St. at Townsend.

Also in SoMa, the folks behind ~HIDDEN SPOT~ in South San Francisco and Emeryville just opened a location inside Trademark bar. Their extensive menu of hot sandwiches, wagyu burgers, karaage chicken burgers, wings, and beer-battered onion rings will pair well with Trademark’s cocktails, which you can enjoy inside or on the patio. Open Tue-Fri 10am-9pm, Sat 10am-10pm, and Sun 10am-7pm. 1123 Folsom St. at Langton.

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The new Lupulandia brewpub in the Mission. Photo courtesy of Lupulandia.

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The exterior of Alioto’s. Photo by Mathew Sumner.

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The sign for Arinell Pizza on Valencia is a beacon in the night. Yelp photo by Andrew D.

Tragic news on the Wharf: after 97 years of business, the iconic ~ALIOTO’S~ is closing permanently, after shuttering for the pandemic the past two years. SF Business Times reports they’re getting approval from the Port of San Francisco to get out of their lease (and the $770,000 in back rent owed). Since the Business Times article is paywalled, you can read more details in SFist here.

It’s truly a tragedy to lose one of San Francisco’s most longstanding restaurants, the site of so many memories, from locals going there for dinner for prom, to family gatherings, to tourists making their annual cioppino pilgrimage. Alioto’s first started as a fish stand in 1925 at stall No. 8, and the restaurant opened in 1938 (you can read more of the restaurant’s long history here). This is exactly why we need to put pressure on the Senate to refill the RRF (Restaurant Revitalization Fund), so we don’t keep having to watch otherwise-successful businesses close and lose our landmarks that have been open for almost a century. It’s a damn shame. Please take action on the Independent Restaurant Coalition page.

Another restaurant that couldn’t survive pandemic-related woes is ~LUPULANDIA~, the three-year-old Mission brewpub from Anthony LaVia. You can read more about the ups and downs of the business as it fought to survive these past two years in this Mission Local piece. 2243 Mission St. at 18th St.

After 11 years of DJ nights and burgers and cocktails, ~ASIENTO~ in the Mission has closed. Hoodline mentions the business is reportedly being remodeled, with owner Debi Cohn stating in a Facebook post: “Bringing on a partner and remodeling/rebranding. A new bar is coming soon!” Stand by for details in the future on what the comeback is going to look like. 2730 21st St. at Bryant.

And Eater reports that longtime, Inner Sunset sister businesses ~TART TO TART~ and ~MEXICAN GRILL~ are closing their current locations on Irving Street due to an impending rent increase. Mexican Grill will be closing after 45 years in business, but Tart to Tart will live on and is moving to a smaller nearby location. 641 Irving St. at 8th Ave.

You’d think one of SF’s most well-known slice shops would be doing okay during these tough times, but even ~ARINELL PIZZA~ is on the precipice of closing due to reduced foot traffic (and the diminished number of people getting drunk in the Mission and needing a slice at 2am)—read more in this SFGate story. Owner Ron Demirdjian needs to see a bunch more customers to pull through this tough time, like, right now, so please, swing by as soon as you can and order a pizza, or at least a couple slices of their legit New York-style pizza. Help save this 33-year-old slice shop with our business and support. Arinell opened on Valencia in 1989, and the original opened in Berkeley in 1975—it has a long history that deserves to continue. Fortunately, the Berkeley shop is reportedly doing okay, but Valencia needs our business. Hours are Wed-Thu 3pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun 3pm-9pm. 509 Valencia St. at 16th St.

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