This week's tablehopper: good day sunshine.
Scallop crudo by Reform Club at a SPUR benefit. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
TGIFF. Yeah, you know what that extra “f” stands for. (I am currently suffering from some annoying slow computer woes, so that word is on the tip of my tongue this week. Sorry, Mom.) I’ve had some good eats this week, including dinner at AQ on Tuesday night (so happy to see how busy they are on that quiet corner) and a visit to Radio Africa Kitchen in Bayview, also bringing some energy to its corner location.
Last night was a unique event: I was invited to a SPUR (San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association) benefit, Dine + Discover, held in the church/”castle” at 601 Dolores. I have always wanted to go inside that huge building looming over Dolores Park—it did not disappoint. What was additionally unique about the event, besides its primo location, is the catering was done by pop-ups Reform Club, Stag Dining Group, and Rice Paper Scissors. It was a fun twist on the usual catered fare (no satay on a stick here), and SPUR even had Ananas cocktail consulting concoct some pairings for the entrées. Nicely done.
Tonight, all I can say is there’s a dance floor out there with my name on it.
I’d like to bid a sad farewell to my former 707 Scout writer, Deirdre Bourdet, who is going to be focusing more on her Hedonism Ink venture, doing copywriting for wineries, restaurants, and more (so if you need some sharp copy for your business, you know who to contact). Thank you, Deirdre, for all your snappy and smart news from the 707—we all enjoyed your contributions. (Meow.)
Taking Deirdre’s place as tablehopper’s 707 Scout correspondent is Heather Irwin, whose byline you may recognize from BiteClub Eats. Her first piece for tablehopper is today’s update chock-full of Wine Country news. Welcome aboard, Heather!
Up next: who is going to be my girl (or guy) Friday? I’m still interviewing candidates for the position, FYI!
Have fun this weekend, sure to be full of Cinco de Mayo shenanigans (don’t forget Comal opens in Berkeley tonight!) and mint juleps in honor of the Kentucky Derby. Mmmm, I’d like one right now.
And on a somber note, I am going to pour some out and blast Paul’s Boutique today, in honor of Adam Yauch. Rest in peace MCA, you wildly talented and totally groundbreaking mofo.
This Round Is On Me... (hey, thanks!)
(Sponsored): Handcrafted Chocolates Perfect for Mother's Day
Based in San Francisco, Poco Dolce (translated from Italian as “not too sweet”) creates unique, handmade chocolates and confections “on the savory side of sweet.” Producing out of a small Dogpatch kitchen since 2004, Poco Dolce’s eight-person team crafts everything in small batches using fresh, local ingredients. Tasks such as mixing toffee, popping fresh popcorn, and brewing coffee are all done in-house, and their chocolates and confections feature only the finest, all-natural ingredients—from California olive oil and local pumpkin seeds and almonds to sea salt harvested from the coast of Brittany. Enjoy! They’re the perfect indulgence.
Get 10% off your Mother’s Day order! tablehopper subscribers use this exclusive coupon code: THMDAY12.
Established Restaurant Reviews (it's about time we met...)
Over the past two months, I headed to the Century Theatre in the Westfield Centre to catch the one-night-only showings of the gorgeously restored The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II. No, I was not going to miss seeing Al Pacino during his smoking-hot years on the big screen. Why these 40th anniversary screenings were one-night-only affairs, I’ll never understand, but it did give me a chance to finally check out CUPOLA PIZZERIA twice since I’m not one you’ll find in malls very often, let alone eating in one.
The restaurant is part of the Lark Creek Restaurant Group and has a sleek look by Cass Calder Smith Architecture—a bit Milanese—with glossy red communal tables, contemporary black and chrome chairs, mirrored panels on the walls, and a gleaming black Stefano Ferrara pizza oven imported from Naples. It’s meant to be a comfortable place, but I didn’t like how my legs dangled off the banquette at the high tables (I felt like a little kid).
Chef Christian Hermsdorf, previously at Bar Bambino, is doing the classic, SF seasonal, Cal-Ital tarantella, with a few clever twists. The list of daily antipasti ($4.50 each) included beets with a zip from sambuca, plus toasty walnuts and mint, while first-of-the-season asparagus came with chopped egg. The warm, pulled-to-order mozzarella ($11.75) is a no-brainer—of course you want to order it—and you should. The Cupola “dome” salad ($13.75) was not only cleverly shaped but was a crazy-delicious salad, with raw fennel, heirloom carrots, and shavings of Grana—the bread and tomato vinaigrette made it taste like a sneak peek of a summer panzanella in the thick of winter, with a pop of mint.
Handmade pastas include the oh-so-simple but very good dish of handkerchief pasta ($11.50/$16.75) in a light tomato sauce with basil and garlic crumbs—I liked the crisped edges from the quick hit under the salamander. There are also delicate ravioli (the pasta was layered in the shape of Stars of David) with seasonal and well-sourced fillings, like ricotta and mustard greens, or a version with English peas and topped with Nebrodini mushrooms (both $11.50/$16.75). All the pastas were beautifully made, like tender ricotta cavatelli, but some of the sets felt a little off (one was salty, another was too oily) or didn’t come together, like they were still works in progress. Some warmed plates would help as well.
The Neapolitan pizzas come out of the oven with the kiss of the wood fire (two of the three I’ve had a bit heavily so—hey, pizza, stop making out with the oven and get over to my table), but they have a pleasant dough that’s elastic, salty, and with a chewy cornicione, and I dug the thoughtful touch of the perforated pan on the plate that keeps your pizza from getting soggy underneath. The ingredients are quality, from the San Marzano tomatoes on the margherita ($11) to the fior di latte cheese that melts beautifully. I was happiest with the classic pizzas like the margherita; I thankfully ended up ordering sauce and cheese for the carne ($16.50) pizza (it needed both), and the arrabiata ($15.50) wasn’t very angry—I requested some chile oil to help it live up to its name.
The wine list has a lot of options, with wine on tap and many more by the glass—both Italian and domestic—at a mostly affordable price point; I was happy to revisit a gavi from Beni de Batasiolo (it reminded me of my trip to Piemonte), and I’m always pleased to see my beloved Statti gaglioppo from Calabria ($39/bottle) on a list. Sincere kudos to the team for creating some excellent “zero-proof cocktails,” like the Golden Gate ($5), with mandarin, tangerine, Sanbitter, mint, and soda. Almost ironically, the Bellini ($9.50) and the Cupola Royale ($8.50), both prosecco drinks, had too much juice and would be better-suited as brunch cocktails.
Since the place has continuous hours, you can swing by for lunch (don’t shop when hungry!), an afternoon snack, a happy hour glass of wine and bite at the bar, or in my case, an early pre-show dinner that would even inspire a blue hair to say, “Isn’t that a little early, dear?” There’s also “La Festa di Tutte le Feste” (The Feast of All Feasts), a generous kitchen-selected meal for $30 a person. Abbondanza! I think the Godfather would approve.
Cupola Pizzeria - 845 Market St., 4th floor, San Francisco - 415-896-5600
Wine Country Buzz (it’s what happens there)
Openings Abound in Sonoma
By 707 correspondent, Heather Irwin.
Restaurants are blooming throughout the spring and summer north of the Golden Gate. THE SPINSTER SISTERS, a collaboration between Prune NYC’s Eric Anderson, wine insider Giovanni Cerrone, and chef Liza Hinman (formerly of Geyserville’s Santi) is slated for a summer opening in Santa Rosa. The team are tapping local music, arts, and bicycling bigwigs for input—which should make for an eclectic vibe. 401 S A St. at Sebastopol Ave., Santa Rosa.
GLEN ELLEN STAR, the much-anticipated eatery from French Laundry alum Ari Weiswasser, has been pushed to Friday May 18th. You can read a previous post about the project in tablehopper here. 13648 Arnold Dr. at Warm Springs Rd., Glen Ellen.
Meanwhile, the second outpost of the critically acclaimed ROSSO PIZZERIA & WINE BAR is nearing completion, looking at a late May opening, in downtown Petaluma. Owners will pay homage to local dairies with a fresh mozzarella bar. 151 Petaluma Blvd. at C St., Petaluma.
Just opened is FLIPSIDE BAR & BURGER. Taking cues from SF burger joints like Umami Burger and Super Duper, this luxe newcomer goes beyond the patty, cheese, bun equation, adding fried eggs, Gruyère, or artisanal bacon to sustainable beef and bakery buns. And the truffle mac ‘n’ cheese is worth the trip alone. 630 Third St. at Humboldt St., Santa Rosa, 707-523-1400.
Want to bring a little Wine Country home? Take your pick of more than 125 heirloom tomato starts Saturday May 5th at KENDALL-JACKSON WINE CENTER. Green thumbs know not to dawdle because the early bird gets the, well, tomato plant. There’s also a farmers’ market during the event, showcasing some of Sonoma’s best baked goods and spring produce. 5007 Fulton Rd. just off Hwy. 101, Santa Rosa, 866-287-9818.