There are some pieces I can’t believe I have to write, and this is definitely one of them. After almost 16 years of serving as San Francisco’s beloved Sardinian living room and family kitchen table, owners Massimiliano Conti and Lorella Degan are selling Noe Valley’s crown jewel, ~LA CICCIA~.
They’re selling the business, corporation, and operation to a South Bay restaurant group, which doesn’t have any Italian restaurants in their portfolio—the group will be keeping the restaurant open, with the same menu, recipes, and team, although they haven’t finalized who the new chef will be just yet. Massimo tells me they have a couple cooks in the kitchen who have been there since the beginning, with many there 7 years or more, while the front of house has servers who have been there for 4-5 years, and a runner who has been there for 12 years, so you’ll definitely see some familiar faces who know the ropes. But as regulars know, it was chef Massimiliano and Lorella’s hospitality that was such an integral part of the experience of dining there—it was the secret sauce, a warmth and kindness that always made you feel like family. A meal there with a lovingly selected bottle of obscure Sardinian wine is a special kind of soul hug.
Obviously, this was not an easy decision, and there are many reasons that led to it, from extreme pandemic-related fatigue to a long-delayed foot surgery that Lorella needs to have (and recuperate from), and Massimo has been needing to head home to Sardinia and spend time with his ailing mother. A year into the pandemic, they started thinking about closing and doing something else. Massimo told me, “Lorella said as soon as it becomes just work, we have to move on.” After these past two years of arduous work conditions, they want to enjoy “a regular life,” slow down, and plan to be in Italy in September in time for harvest, either at a winery in Sardinia or Marche. They have a home in San Francisco, and imagine they will return after a couple months of travel.
I know we’re all hoping and wondering: will they open something else? Massimo said with a laugh, “We tell ourselves we aren’t going to open another place, but we were already thinking about another concept the other night, we can’t help ourselves!” Time will have to tell. For now, they want to finish this chapter first.
La Ciccia’s last day under Massimo and Lorella’s loving care is going to be Saturday April 16th, the day before Easter—Massimo joked they will be reborn on Easter. The week prior on April 9th is their 16th anniversary (they opened in 2006), so it will definitely be sweet sixteen. Massimo said they feel relief, but it’s so bittersweet. He said it reminds him of when you finish the school year, and while you’re excited for summer, you’re going to miss your friends so much. They extend their extreme gratitude and profound thanks to all their customers and media who have supported them over the years. We all raise our glasses of cannonau and forkfuls of spicy octopus to this oh-so-adored couple who have given so much of their heart and soul and lives to us, gifting us some of the best memories and meals at their welcoming tables. Buon viaggio.
La Ciccia’s trademark spicy baby octopus stew. Photo: © tablehopper.com.