Auguri to Claudio Villani, the owner of Cole Valley’s popular Italian enoteca, InoVino, who is taking over the former Mason Pacific and will be opening ALTOVINO. Villani says he’s only making some cosmetic changes—like lowering the bar and making it cozier, and replacing the front room’s high seating and tables with banquettes and normal height seating—so he hopes to be open before Christmas.
He’s going to have InoVino’s chef, Nick Kelly, who has been with him since last December, leading the kitchen. The concept will be neighborhood seasonal and regional Italian—they want to be authentic to Italy’s regional cooking, but not limited to just one area. They will be bringing over some of their top appetizers, like their Tuscan chicken liver pâté and foie gras, and adding 7 or 8 pasta dishes, both fresh/handmade and artisan dry pasta as well—it ends up there is quite the prep room downstairs. With a winter opening, expect some buttery and mushroomy and truffle-y dishes! They will be using quality ingredients, but he doesn’t want prices to skyrocket, so look for pasta dishes costing $16-$20 or so.
Villani, who is Tuscan and grew up in Florence, is also excited to be bringing some tableside dishes to the dining experience, and top of his list is to offer a bistecca alla fiorentina, served off a little cart medium rare and a minimum of a kilo! (He already has some vintage carving knives lined up.) He also wants to offer seasonal risotto for two and is thinking of another dish as well, probably whole fish. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be formal, but he does want to have some fun with tableside service, something he learned during his time in Florence and also at Bartolotta in Vegas. There will be other main courses as well, some featuring some Northern Mediterranean flavors, with plans to have them at $30 and under.
As for the wines, it will definitely be an all-Italian list, with the exception of Champagne, and while he is focused on volcanic and Alpine wines at InoVino, at AltoVino, he’s excited to build up a list with some wines from Tuscany, too, where he first learned about wine, and is excited to offer some beautiful classics.
Another fun thing that will be developed is the bar: they will be offering some aperitivi and 12 vermouths, served as spritzes, cocktails, and more, plus Nick makes some pretty great shrubs, so they’ll be playing around with that as well. With the renovation of the bar area, there will be new shelving added, which will be storing many of the wines and more, with 6 or 7 seats.
I’ll keep you posted on the opening and am so pleased the charming Mason Pacific space is in such good hands. 1358 Mason St. at Pacific.
The exterior of the former Mason Pacific. Photo: Nick Vasilopoulos.