“Che fico!” It’s a phrase I remember saying quite a bit when I lived in Italy, which basically translates into “how cool!” or “badass!” And it’s pretty much the reaction I’m having to this pretty cool project opening just a block away from my place called, suitably, CHE FICO. A former auto garage on Divisadero is now a two-level restaurant project from chef David Nayfeld, James Beard Award-winning pastry chef and fellow Eleven Madison Park alum Angela Pinkerton, and former Hogsalt Hospitality operator Matt Brewer.
Downstairs is where Pinkerton’s Theorita will be opening later, a pie shop and dinette. But head up the stairs (featuring custom fig tree wallpaper on the walls—considering the designer is Jon de la Cruz of DLC ID, who did Leo’s Oyster Bar, it all begins to make sense), and that’s where you’ll find the Italian marble chef’s counter overlooking the Neapolitan pizza oven (from Acunto Napoli) and wood-fired grill, plus vaulted ceilings and skylights. The dining room features raw wood tables and red leather booths, plus a 15-seat, zinc-topped bar, a glass salumi room you can peer into, and a private dining room that seats 16.
The menu is focused on rustic, seasonal, Cal-Italian dishes, with a strong focus on pasta (made by hand, extruded, or dry/secco—all denoted on the menu) and pizza that has a naturally fermented dough (that’s how we do in Cali). Take a look at the sample menu (ignore the typos for now), and you’ll also see housemade salumi is coming, plus there are antipasti and large secondi like a wood-fired chicken. There’s also a section on the menu that celebrates some Jewish-Italian (cucina ebraica) dishes, including a Roman classic: fried carciofi alla giudia. Some of the seasonal ingredients will be coming from Brewer’s family ranch in Sonoma.
Pinkerton will be offering some stunning desserts, including a wood-fired citrus crostata for two with seasonal fruit, polenta, fior di latte gelato, and honey. She is also making housemade gelato, with flavors appearing next to a bittersweet chocolate budino or olive oil cake.
I’m particularly excited to have bar director Christopher Longoria (previously 1760 Restaurant) in the neighborhood. I have been loving his culinary-driven cocktails since his days at Aziza, and his cocktail menu for Che Fico includes a couple of aperitivi and nine cocktails I will be working my way through, plus a well-stocked bar with choice amari, whiskeys, gins, and vermouths.
Wine director Francesca Maniace (Commonwealth) has assembled an Italian-driven wine list, with some domestic selections from California, plus sparkling Italian wines and Champagne.
Che Fico is open for dinner Tue-Thu 5:30pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-1am. 838 Divisadero St. at McAllister, 415-416-6959.
Housemade tagliatelle al ragù. Photo courtesy of Che Fico.