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Feb 8, 2010 19 min read

February 9, 2010 - tastin' the town.

February  9, 2010 - tastin' the town.
Table of Contents

This week's tablehopper: tastin' the town.                    

Sopes at Chilango.

Based on the fact I was out every single night last week, you could say I’m back in the saddle again. Just call me Little Bunny Foo Foo, with all that hopping around town. I certainly have my share of catching up to do—about two months’ worth. Here are some highlights from last week, in no particular order: the spicy crab “spring roll” at Baker & Banker, the trio of sopes at Chilango (pictured), the bone marrow sformatino at SPQR, a bowl of dac biet at Pho Tan Hoa on Jones, the chicken Hyderabadi dum biryani at Curry Village, and Sunday night’s cooking class and dinner at Quince with Benedetta Vitali and a slew of wines chosen by Filippo Bartolotta. (You can drool over some pics from the cooking class and the incredible meal we had.) There are so many new places that I’m fired up to write about, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week’s entry in fresh meat.

Since I totally slacked on getting pictures posted of the tablehopper Pho La La La La dinner at Pot de Pho, I figured I better get those up tout de suite before I finish sorting through my India photos. That was one of my favorite events yet—you were such a fun bunch (and you know who you are!). Let’s dine again together soon.

Since we’re on events, I wanted to point you to a Google calendar I just started that will list my upcoming book signings,  appearances, events, lunches, and more. While details are still being finalized on most of them, one event that is firm and already selling tickets is my Book Passage Cooks with Books luncheon at Perbacco on Wednesday March 31st. We’re going to mingle, talk, and of course feast in one of my favorite Italian restaurants. Chef Staffan Terje and wine director Mauro Cirilli will put together a fantastico meal (they always do). Hope to see you there—let’s cin cin.

Sending love and kisses, and hearts and flowers. And chocolate.

Marcia Gagliardi

the chatterbox

Gossip & News (the word on the street)

A Random Smattering of Projects

A peek at some liquor licenses reveals there’s a new wine bar called FAT ANGEL that is now open in the Fillmore District. As reported by Thrillist, the 23-seat wine bar has 38 wines by the glass, plus a variety of eats ranging from charcuterie plates to mac and cheese (1740 O’Farrell St. at Fillmore, 415-690-3783).

More from the interwebs: UrbanDaddy reports the folks behind BURMA SUPERSTAR and B*STAR BAR have completed their takeover of Richmond brunch fave EATS. Brunch includes chicken and waffles, scrambles, and more; served 8am-3pm, closed Wed (50 Clement St. at 2nd Ave., 415-751-8000).

And Tenderblog has noted a restaurant called YEMENI’S RESTAURANT is now open. (Here’s more on Yelp—which includes a mention of fresh mango juice.) On the menu are Mediterranean faves like schwarma, falafel, hummus, and Yemeni soup (1098 Sutter St. at Larkin).

RISTOBAR Opens This Thursday

The transformation of the Marina’s Emporio Rulli Gran Caffe to RISTOBAR will be complete by this Thursday the 11th. The new incarnation is a combination restaurant, wine bar, and salumi bar that is meant to feel more relaxed and casual. The menu includes snacks, salads, crudos, a number of vegetable dishes, some pasta dishes like paccheri with sautéed guanciale, cipolline, pecorino romano, and hazelnut ($15), pizzas ($10-12), and main dishes like osso buco and lamb meatballs, with nothing over $20. Wine off the Enomatic system is available in a variety of pours, from a taste to a bottle. Dinner nightly (Sun-Thurs 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat until 11pm). 2300 Chestnut St. at Scott, 415-923-6464.

Ristobar            - 2300 Chestnut St. San Francisco - 415-923-6464

Cupid Came Early


Maison Mitchell Azteca truffles.

If anyone has any doubt about the commercialization of Valentine’s Day, all they need to do is take one look at the pitches I’ve been inundated with for the past few weeks, from pink Valentine’s Day cocktails to “romantic” recipes to special aphrodisiac menus to “cooking for two” cookbooks to a vat of chocolate press releases. But really, let’s get down to the basics: if you have a sweetie, it’s all about the card, the flowers, and yes, the chocolate. I may not be getting a card or flowers on Sunday, but I sure as hell just scored in the chocolate department. I love my job!

A pastry chef whom I met while he was at Chez Papa and Baraka, Gabriel Mitchell, has just launched his own “online pastry shop,” MAISON MITCHELL. His first creation for Valentine’s Day is Azteca, a sultry and dark chocolate truffle that weaves in the flavors of Ceylon cinnamon and smoky pasilla chile. In a word, meow. (I can see why he won a competition before with this recipe.) The $25 box decadently comes with about 40 pieces, so you can share them with your sweetie. You can order the truffles online (in-person delivery is free to San Francisco residents) or have them mailed if you’re not in SF. Limited quantities are also available at AREA in North Beach, MAC in Hayes Valley, and at Arjan flowers in Oakland, which is where Mitchell will be making an appearance on Sunday from 9am-7:30pm.

Mitchell was most recently the executive pastry chef at Zinnia, and his background also includes working for Jacques Torres at Le Cirque 2000, Johnny Iuzzini at Restaurant Daniel, and in Paris at Pierre Hermé. As he puts it, he’s the “sugar pimp,” and all of his creations are his ladies, whether it’s Chloe, an upcoming champagne truffle, or Tam-Tam, the soon-to-be-released chocolate tart with gold leaf (indeed). (Fortunately he has the sartorial sense and baking skills to pull this sugar pimp thing off.)

There will also be Sunshine, a Meyer lemon tart that will be available in a couple weeks as well. (The tarts will be $5 for an individual size, or $25-30 for a 5-6 serving size.) I’m looking forward to trying his upcoming creations, but in the meantime, I have quite the box of truffles to tide me over.

More Tasty Things to Put in Your Mouth

After the crazy lines (again) during PAPALOTE’s Mexi-Pino burrito day, it’s official: the chicken adobo and garlic-fried rice burrito is going to be a staple on the menu every day, starting in March. Hallelujah. I think the boys at We Eating, Gus and Big Jon, are gonna be happy, too.

And Danny Bowien’s menu at MISSION STREET FOOD this Thursday is looking like all kinds of crazy delicious. How about raw Tasmanian ocean trout: roe “en escabeche”, Santa Barbara sea urchin, crispy rice paper, fresh dill. Or then there’s lightly grilled littleneck clams: smoked habanero shoyu, pineapple vinegar, olive oil puffed barley. Oh wait, one more: oysters on the half-shell: pulled pork shoulder, poached Napa cabbage, salt pickles, spicy whole bean miso. Dang.

Mission Street Food            - 2234 Mission St. San Francisco

Hayes Street to Become Kebab H.Q.

It’s looking likely that there will be some impending kebab confusion in Hayes Valley. The Mediterranean joint HAYES & KEBAB got squeezed out of their space at 406 Hayes, and it looks like the new tenants are calling their business something ridiculously similar: Kebabs of Hayes Valley (they are reportedly opening in a couple weeks). Meanwhile, the original Hayes & Kebab is going to be moving into the former market and then art gallery space at 580 Hayes and Laguna. Yup, the big space with the parking lot. They are working with the neighborhood to open a large outdoor patio and art garden in the lot. Permits and more are underway, and they hope to reopen in a couple months with an expanded menu, stand by.

Monday and Tuesday Dinners at Mojo


My favorite neighborhood cafe-meets-bike repair shop, MOJO BICYCLE CAFE, has just started serving a main dish for dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights. This week chef Jesse is serving up Boeuf Bourguignon with a side of mashed potatoes and either brussels sprouts or Moroccan string beans for only $11. There will also be a couple of new wines, the Tandem pinot noir and chardonnay by the glass or bottle. Dinner will be available from 7pm-10pm, and tonight there is a live performance by Dana Carmel from 9pm-11pm. You can keep up on their menu, event announcements, and more on their brand-new Twitter feed.

Mojo Bicycle Cafe            - 639-A Divisadero St. San Francisco - 415-440-2370

Freebies at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in Feb.

It’s true: rainy days are not ideal days to head to the farmers’ market. But to entice fair-weather friends to come, The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market at THE FERRY BUILDING is offering a free market item every Tuesday and Thursday for the month of February. Early weekday shoppers will be rewarded just for showing up. Beginning at 10am, a coupon redeemable for a fresh farmers’ market treat will be waiting at the information booth for the first 50 people who come to claim it. The market is also giving away free recipe handouts.

Featured items change with each giveaway and will be announced via CUESA’s Twitter feed and Facebook page that morning. One coupon per customer.

So the early bird in this case gets the lacinato kale, or for today’s giveaway, it was leeks.

Ferry Building            - One Ferry Building San Francisco - 415-983-8000

Black Truffle Blowouts

black truffle.jpg

Flickr photo by ulterior epicure.

Ah yes, truffles. Those tasty (and spendy) little nuggets of deliciousness will be turning up on menus around town this month. AME is running its Winter Black Truffle Menu from now through Sunday the 14th. You get five courses (which will also be available à la carte) for $115. There’s even truffle for dessert: black truffle panna cotta with chocolate truffle.

And then next week, CHEZ PANISSE will be hosting Black Truffle Week from February 15th-20th, highlighting black truffles from the Vaucluse region of France.

No Salted Caramel Banana Splits for You

Hang onto your ice cream cone: BI-RITE CREAMERY is going to be closed the last two weeks of February, from the 16th until March 2nd. The good news is they are expanding the ice cream facility to include more seating and a larger production space, and are opening a new window in March where they will be serving soft serve from Straus organic dairy, as well as fresh-baked goods. You can still get your fix, however: pints of ice cream will be available at Bi-Rite Market, across the street.

Hibiscus: A New Flower in Oakland


Photo from Hibiscus Facebook page.

I’ve only been hearing tasty reports, so I’m excited to make my way over to Sarah Kirnon’s new restaurant, HIBISCUS in Oakland. Some may remember her as the executive chef of The Front Porch in the Mission (and her wonderful hot sauce). Kirnon, a native of Barbados, is offering a menu of innovative Caribbean-Creole dishes. You can take a peek at a PDF of the menu here, which is full of dishes like Congo-style soup, salt fish and ackee (heard it’s deeeelicious), and mains like pepperpot stew and her famed Miss Ollie’s fried chicken. Everything is made with sustainable ingredients, and the price is right (nice). The 70-seat space is clean and modern-cozy, with local art and hand-blown glass fixtures made from recycled glass. There’s also a 25-seat lounge with a full bar; they are making their own syrups and featuring rum cocktails. Omar White, who was at Chez Panisse for 15 years and Pizzaiolo, is handling the front of house. For folks heading over to see Dave Chappelle this week at The New Parish, this should be your spot for dinner. Open for dinner Sun and Wed-Thu 5:30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. 1745 San Pablo Ave. at Clay, Oakland, 510-444-2626.

The Beginning of a New Era


Photo from Era.

Another project opening in Oakland that I mentioned a while back is ERA ART BAR AND LOUNGE on Grand Avenue in the Uptown District. The 5,000-square-foot space will bring together art (expect bi-monthly collections of modern and contemporary art), handcrafted artisan cocktails with house-made syrups and bitters, local small production wines, and a wide range of music (with occasional live performances). AKG partners is behind the project (Alfonso Dominguez, Kevin Best, and Gairy Jacques)—their other venues include Tamarindo Antojeria, B Restaurant and Bar, and Air Lounge.

There are two lounges: downstairs features vaulted, hand-plastered ceilings and a 35-foot steel and concrete bar; upstairs features vintage leather seating, antique and modern furniture, reclaimed 1920s hardwood flooring, a hand-blown glass chandelier, and a more intimate bar. Era will be open from 4:30pm-1:30am Wed-Sat, with a daily happy hour from 4:30pm-7:30pm. 19 Grand Ave. at Broadway, Oakland, 510-832-4400.


the sponsor

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Farm-Grown Roses at Whole Foods Market

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the regular

Established Restaurant Reviews (it's about time we met...)


2-buffalo wings.JPG

Buffalo wings.

3-pulled pork.JPG

Pulled pork sandwich.

4-bacon palmiers.JPG

Bacon palmiers.


After a couple bites of my favorite Buffalo wings in the city, I was counting my blessings that the “Gypsy Kitchen” duo of Ryan Ostler and Katharine Zacher had found their latest  camp at BRUNO’S. And it’s testament to their fiiiiiiine Southern-inspired cooking that I set foot back in the club that lost me as soon as the red booths were ripped out in its remodel. What can I say, I’ve been living in the city for 15 years, and have many fond yet hazy memories of martinis with my friends and seeing the Broun Fellinis in the Cork Room back in, oh, let’s just say I was in my 20s and the swing scene was going strong. After the remodel a few years ago. it just didn’t have the same Rat Pack mojo I liked; the crowd and vibe changed, and so that chapter in my life was really and truly finito as soon as I laid my eyes on the tiger-striped stripper club carpet. Pffft.

But I am the first to admit the atmosphere kind of works with the new early evening dinner service. There’s a cozy little fireplace, soft lighting, and the row of two-tops along the red banquette help keep some of that Bruno’s retro aesthetic going. I may not be ordering martinis like I used to, but the smoked paprika tequila gimlet ($9) was balanced and a good warm-up to the meal.

The two times I visited, there was a DJ who came on during dinner to play some beats (nothing crazy) and there was a mellow scene of folks hanging out at the bar. The kitchen closes at 10pm, so that’s when the place really morphs into the bar/club scene it’s known for.

But when it’s dinnertime? It’s quite nice. Could even work for a casual date—but that’s only if you don’t mind getting down with some saucy food or gnawing on pork ribs in front of your date. I noticed that a couple large groups reserved the center island—would be a fun spot to hang out with your pals over birthday drinks and din din since the food is pretty group-friendly.

So, the vittles. Everything on the menu sounds so dang good that it will entice you to hit some personal calorie consumption records. Start your engine. The starter options rotate, from juicy-meets-cornmeal crusted fried green tomatoes ($5) with a dill-spiked house-made ranch dressing, to the hush puppies ($5), round little balls of moist corn bread that you slather with chili-apple butter—they’re shockingly non-greasy, considering they had a dunk in the fryer.

And then there are the legendary (in my book) Buffalo wings ($7), a pile of spicy and saucy wings that inspire deep, carnivorous pangs of happiness for me. And baby wings these are not: they’re meaty lil’ muthas. The exterior has such a satisfying texture, a magical intersection where the fryer and the sauce join in a steamy love embrace. Oh yeah, hello celery. Thanks for coming to the party. Put your keys in the bowl right over there.

Now, are you in a sandwich mood? Get ready for one of the best-in-class pulled pork sandwiches ($8) in the city. For reals. It’s the kind of sandwich that crawls into your DNA, making you crave it on a regular basis. Yup, an irrepressible hunger for it is going to shake you at some really inopportune time, like when you’re away at Whistler on a ski trip. Or when you’re in the drunk tank, and are out of phone calls. Damn. So… are you sure you’re ready to make its acquaintance? The brine-injected pork shoulder is hickory smoked for something like 18 hours, and then slapped with some tangy (and complex) Carolina sauce, and tickled with a pink slaw of purple and green cabbage. The house-made bun (a treat) was so tender, fresh, and lightly toasted, but unfortunately it couldn’t hold up to the end—the sandwich’s sauce-a-rama demands a bit more heft.

The oyster po’ boy ($8) does justice to oysters—they weren’t too overly coated and fried into oblivion like so many other executions I’ve had; you could still taste the plump, briny oyster within. The superlative baguette (from Lucky Bakery, a place on Geneva that Ryan and Kat discovered during their days at Broken Record) may be untraditional, but it’s the picture of fresh-baked goodness. It comes loaded with remoulade and cabbage, creating a trifecta of tasty. The occasional nip from a caper makes the whole thing just pop, and there’s a little hot sauce shaken in there, too.

More Southern goodness: the chicken and sausage gumbo ($13) with dirty rice and okra features a decadent and super-dark roux, one of the darker ones I’ve ever had. It had a deep flavor, full of seasoning and some heat that makes you say, “Where y’at?” Watch your bowl empty itself. Magic!

Ready for some ‘cue? The pork rib plate way over-delivers for its price ($16). You get a pile of meaty ribs that are applewood smoked, and climb the scale of bodaciousness when you cover them with a swath of Ostler’s sauce. Plus you get a choice of a side, and a buttermilk biscuit (more on those bad boys in a minute). Commence finger licking. You’ll def need the provided wet naps at the end—but don’t use them while someone is still eating because they smell strongly of deodorizer, FYI.

Chicken and waffles ($13) are definitely the trending menu item this year, and at Bruno’s, the yeast-leavened waffle gets an upgrade to business class: the Belgian beauty comes drizzled with apple cider beurre blanc. Oui. The buttermilk-soaked fried chicken thigh and drumstick feature good seasoning and flavor—and there’s nothing like biting into hot and crisp fried-to-order chicken.

You also get to choose a side, which is a taxing decision because you’ll want one of each. There are the feistily spiced collard greens and bacon, but then the fluffy and cheesy spicy grits try to steal the show—the snappy hit from jalapenos is a bonus. (Ryan and Kat discovered the producer of the wonderful grits they use in an obscure Southern baking book.) ‘Tis the season for brussels sprouts, and the tender and buttery roasted ones here almost make you want a pork chop to magically appear to accompany them.

And then… there’s the biscuit. This supreme version needs to arm wrestle with my favorite biscuit from BRENDA’S in a showdown. And it’s gonna be a tough competition. These biscuits are all about baking alchemy, sporting a combination of flaky and buttery goodness and a firm-crumbliness that dissolves delightfully on your tongue. And with the honey butter? Hold me. (All the sides are $2-$3.50.)

Dessert is up to the whims of Ms. Zacher: over the holidays, I got to enjoy a tender chocolate whoopie pie filled with candy cane buttercream ($3). Ho ho ho. The toffee crack ($1) (which says “you’ll be back” on the menu) makes appearances, made with matzo and chocolate. And then there is (sometimes) the hidden menu item extraordinaire: bacon palmiers. You can start with them, or end with them. If they’re available, I recommend doing both.

Service is a bit absentminded but at least well-intentioned and friendly—it feels more cocktail-service than restaurant-service savvy. But it’s a small matter, because it’s really about the talent of these two chefs. Their background includes some of the better kitchens in the city (Boulevard, Range, Firefly), so they have quite the touch—and they are always refining and tinkering with their already well-composed and inspired recipes. I have a lot of respect for them—they work really hard to make really good food.

When Kat and Ryan were located out at BROKEN RECORD in the Excelsior, it was quite the trek, but now that they’re smack dab in the Mission, it surprises me how few people I know have checked out their food. Gang, whatcha waiting for? Don’t let anything stand in your way. It’s time to chow down.

Bruno's            - 2389 Mission St. San Francisco - 415-643-5200

the lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)



Hooray for bubbles! Photo: ©

Steve Sherman at WILLIAM CROSS WINE MERCHANTS is at it again: this Wednesday’s tasting is going to feature one of my favorite things to drink: sparkling rosé. In honor of our upcoming Hallmark holiday, he is going to be pouring a flight of five sparkling rosés and one still rosé: Gruet Brut Rosé New Mexico, Roederer Estate Rosé Anderson Valley, Lucien Albrecht Rosé Crémant d’Alsace, Paul Déthune Grand Cru Brut Rosé Champagne, 2008 Etude Rosé of Pinot Noir Carneros, and 2009 Elio Perrone Bigaro Sparkling Dessert Rosé Italy.

               Wednesday Feb 10, 2010 6pm–9pm $15 more info

William Cross Wine Merchants            - 2253 Polk St. San Francisco - 415-346-1314

Time to Get Boozy on Some Bouzy


Flickr photo by Grégory Tonon.


That dang Dr. Champagne is at it again: Jerry Horn is going to be hosting another one of his stoo-pen-dous French Champagne dinners, this time at RESTAURANT PICCO. The four-course dinner starts at 7pm. Here’s the lineup o’ temptation from chefs Bruce Hill and Chris Whaley:

hamachi crudo, blood orange, evoo, crispy onion, tarragon Egly-Ouriet Premier Cru, Brut, “Les Vignes de Vrigny”, NV

chilled lobster, Italian burrata, lentils, arugula, caviar Jean Vesselle, Brut, Oeil de Perdrix, NV

slow cooked salmon, roasted turnips, cippolini, thyme, brioche sauce Deutz, Blanc de Blancs, 2002

veal braised and roasted, cannellini beans, black chanterelles Louis Roederer, Brut Rose, 2004

Yeah, it’s a beaut. You’ll need to download the form from the site, or call to reserve your seat. There are only a limited number of seats available, so get on it.

               Tuesday Feb 23, 2010 7pm $150 per person, plus tax & gratuity more info

Around the World in 80 Sips


San Francisco’s second annual AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 SIPS wine tasting by Bottlenotes returns to CRUSHPAD. Guests attending the walk-around tasting can try over 80 wines from boutique and estate wineries around the world, including France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, California, Israel, Lebanon and even Thailand. There will also be premium cheese from Artisanal to taste, a raffle to benefit Spark, and the chance to meet local winemakers.

tablehopper readers get $10 off the advance ticket price: use the code TABLEHOPPER for your discount!

(You can also read about Crushpad’s just-announced move to Napa Valley on their blog.)

               Thursday Feb 25, 2010 VIP 5pm–6pm; General 6pm–9pm $60 in advance (for $10 discount, use code TABLEHOPPER). $75 at the door. more info

Crushpad            - 2573 3rd St. San Francisco - 877-946-3404


the socialite

Shindigs, Feasts, & Festivals (let's party)

Meatpaper Meat & Greet


 Event Info

Sunday Feb 21, 2010 7pm–10pm $50. Advance tickets are required. Purchase tickets.                        Pizzaiolo 5008 Telegraph Ave. Oakland

Meatpaper has a couple cool upcoming events: first up is the MEAT & GREET cocktail party and fundraiser for Issue 10 at Pizzaiolo on Sunday February 21st. There will be stews, roasted meats, charcuterie and other dishes (both meaty and vegetarian), wine, beer, and cocktails. And a DJ!

Here’s how the partial chef/sponsor line-up is clocking in: Charlie Hallowell and Julya Shin, Pizzaiolo; Chris Kronner, Bar Tartine; Morgan Maki, Bi-Rite; Leif Hedendal, Cooking with Leif; Thomas McNaughton, Flour + Water; Ryan Farr, 4505 Meats; Jerome Waag, OPEN Restaurant and Chez Panisse; Prather Ranch Meat Company; Christa Manalo, Beretta; Scribe Winery; Trumer Pilsner; Magnolia Brewery; St. George Spirits; and more, to be announced… Yeah, it’s gonna be a good one. See you there?

... And a Wabbit Dinner


 Event Info

Monday Feb 22, 2010 6pm and 9pm $100 Info                        Bar Tartine 561 Valencia St. San Francisco

And then on February 22nd, Meatpaper is hosting EAST MEATS WEST II at BAR TARTINE. Here’s more from the Meatpaper announcement: “You might have heard about our exciting November events in Brooklyn with our friends at Diner and Diner Journal. We collaborated to produce an amazing rabbit feast, and now, the Diner folks are flying west for a rabbit redux so you, too, can taste the magic!

“Chefs Chris Kronner of Bar Tartine in San Francisco and Sean Rembold of Diner in Brooklyn team up to create a four-course dinner featuring Devil’s Gulch rabbits. There will be signature cocktails and wine pairings. A portion of the proceeds will go toward the Pasternak’s fund to help the community in Haiti that they serve.”

Some sample dishes on the menu include: Andante Pecorino Dungeness Crab Salad (baby nagoya and white peacock kale; watermelon radishes; chopped Soul Food Farm egg; buttermilk dressing) and Breakfast for Dinner (fried Tartine brioche; sautéed rabbit livers; “hollandaise sauce”). You can check out the entire menu here. There will also be live music.

There are two seatings on February 22nd at 6pm and 9pm. For 6pm ticket purchase, click here. For 9pm ticket purchase, click here.

the starlet

Star Sightings in Restaurants (no photos please)

Not Exactly the Bada Bing!

Last night, James Gandolfini and director/screenwriter Philip Kaufman dined at KOKKARI. And according to my spy, “it looked like business.” Hey, anything with James Gandolfini looks like business.

Better Late Than Never

This sighting happened a couple weeks back while I was still in India, but it’s just too good to not include: Brad Pitt was spotted at Fish. in Sausalito, and he also dined at Allegro Romano in San Francisco, sporting a Rasta knit cap and a scraggly wizard-meets-bohemian Van Dyke.

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