Last week I swung by the brand-new IL CASARO in North Beach, which was running friends and family dinners and was softly open. The project is in the former Steps of Rome on Columbus, a second project for Francesco Covucci (the chef) and Peter Fazio of Vicoletto (which is just a few blocks away on Green). The Calabrese duo are offering a menu of authentic Neapolitan pizzas (yes, from a Stefano Ferrara wood-fired oven) with some classic Italian toppings ($12-$18), and I recognized the pizzaiolo previously at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, Salvatore DiStefano.
The concept behind the menu is doing “cibo da strada,” the late-night street food you find in Italy, like arancini (Il Casaro’s have beef inside), fried cod, and crocchette (potato croquettes), all at a reasonable price point. There will also be pizza dough sandwiches (panuozzo) stuffed with either broccoli rabe, Italian sausage, and scamorza, or one with ground pork, pepe rosso, fennel seed, and french fries (uh-huh). Nope, there isn’t any pasta on the menu (for a change!), showing it’s not just another place geared at capturing tourists—Covucci really wants Il Casaro to appeal to locals. You can look at the opening menu here.
A highlight on the menu are the cheeses available (casaro means “cheesemaker”), which ranges from housemade fior di latte mozzarella to burrata to the rarely seen raspa dura, a cow’s milk cheese (young Lodigiano) that is shaved off the wheel and then served in a cone. Nope, no one is doing that in the city. There will also be some salumi plates too.
The space has a combination of regular tables and high-tops in the back, plus there’s a long L-shaped counter around the pizza oven. It has a simple and casual look, with lots of wood, and one fun flourish is on the wall, where Covucci had an artist paint some Italian sayings.
The wine list features all Italian wines (Campania is well represented, with falanghina, Fiano di Avellino, and Taurasi on the list, and of course I’m happy to see the Calabrese gaglioppo from Statti on there), and naturally there’s some Peroni on tap. Hours are Sun-Thu 12pm-11pm and Fri-Sat 12pm-12am. 348 Columbus Ave. at Grant, 415-677-9455.
The counter and pizza oven at Il Casaro. Photo: © tablehopper.com.