The Faithful Fool at Bar Iris: Calvados, yuzu sake, green apple, sweet woodruff, fizzy water. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Howdy, friends. I hope you’re feeling some tender shoots of optimism now that we have sprung forward, asparagus is here, and the wisteria is blooming in the City. I know we’re all adjusting to the sudden changes of no masks and no vax card presentations at most bars and restaurants in SF, although some places are still choosing to keep those requirements in place to protect their staffs—I just assume that’s what an establishment would like to see at their door until they tell me otherwise. Just ask. It’s all so confusing [waves hands in the air] and we’re all moving at different speeds and levels of comfort.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram know I’ve been having a tough couple weeks—my beloved maternal grandmother Judy ascended a week ago, after our family held a weeklong vigil at her bedside. She was a huge influence in my life and heart, so I have been slowly emerging from a fog of grief. Family, friends, and Fortuna have provided great comfort, along with so many wonderful memories. I’m so grateful and feeling like I’m back on the upswing.
But I have to be honest: this week’s newsletter was quite difficult for me to focus on, and then I got nailed with a horrid migraine in the middle of the night, which had me bedridden until late this morning. Beyond rude! Really, I give up. I’m exhausted. There are some pieces about new bar openings (including the Bottle Club Pub, and PCH opens tomorrow) and CUESA’s big name change to Foodwise that I still need to finish writing, but they have to wait—I’m signing off to go back to bed. (It’s kind of the perfect grey day for it.)
Thanks for your understanding—things are not moving at their usual brisk and chipper pace over here. (I know that’s the case for many of us, the world is in such a state of tumult.) I’ll catch up with you soon, with more spring in my step (and on the socials).
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.
Now open on the back side of the Ferry Building Marketplace in the former Frog Hollow Farm location is GRANDE CRÊPERIE, a French crêperie from Patrick Ascaso and Joanna Pulcini-Ascaso of Le Marais Bakery, with executive chef and longtime friend Emmanuel Pradet and consulting chef Emmannelle Condessa from La Bara-K Crêperie in Saint-Nazaire.
This project pays homage to the authentic crêperie experience found in Brittany, where Patrick spent his childhood, the home of the crêpe! There are naturally leavened sweet crêpes and savory buckwheat galettes using local ingredients (and from Ferry Building merchants), designed to be enjoyed on-site in their charming outdoor seating area with classic bistro chairs and a view of the back plaza, at their indoor tables, or rolled to go.
I swung by for lunch last week, and thoroughly enjoyed my la complete galette with French ham and Gruyère, crowned with a golden oeuf au miroir (sunny side up pastured egg). I haven’t had a galette this good since I was at Breizh Café in Paris far too many years ago—such wonderful flavor (j’adore buckwheat). There are so many creative combinations (like the Marguerite, an homage to pizza margherita)—survey the extensive menu and you’ll say, “Ooh la la!”
Now, I’m not the biggest sweet crêpe fan (I usually find them so overdone with toppings), but the Aurélia (named after the owners’ daughter) with salted caramel and crumbled spéculoos cookie was truly divine and delicate. I’m coming back for the honey-lemon soon. There is also a sarrasin buckwheat waffle cone filled with local Straus Milk’s organic soft-serve ice cream.
The counter is full of Breton pastries, such as kouign-amann, tarte Normande apple cake, and Nantes cake (a delicious almond-rum tea cake), along with Le Marais’s levain croissants, delightful morning bun, and other baked goods, along with a full coffee and tea menu featuring their French roast blend from Wrecking Ball. Be sure to take a look at their mini shop inside, with French cookies and confitures. The crêpe makers aren’t the only round things that are busy—there’s also a record player playing vintage French music.
Opening hours are Wed-Sun 8am-3pm, with plans to extend through dinner hopefully before the end of the month. Evenings will feature French cider on tap and cider and Champagne cocktails. Suite 46, Ferry Building Marketplace.
Well, that was fast. The Queens superette team (Clara Lee and Eddo Kim) just soft-opened their junghwa hybrid Korean-Chinese restaurant this past Sunday called HOTLINE in the former Boavida. They launched with takeout (take it to the beach!) and delivery, starting with limited hours (Thu-Fri 4pm-9pm and Sat-Sun 11:30am-9pm)—they’ll eventually expand to Thu-Mon 11:30am-9pm, with indoor dining coming, too.
For now, you can pick up a variety of plates with entrées, sides, and add-ons, making it easy to scale up or down, whether you’re solo or dining as a family. Dishes include mapa dubu (tofu, shiitake, scallion), yachae bokkeum bap (rice with carrot, scallion, egg), kkanpoong saewoo (fried prawn, scallion, dried chili, garlic, ginger), japchae bap (vermicelli, white rice, onion, carrot, garlic chive, wood ear mushroom), gun mandoo (dumpling with Impossible pork, napa cabbage, garlic chive, scallion), and more (check out the menu here). One of each, please. As they say on their site, you can expect food that is “quick, not fast.” Wine and beer are also available. 3560 Taraval St. at 46th Ave.
Here are some notes on upcoming openings and projects, starting with MIJOTÉ coming to the Mission. A tablehopper reader told me something was moving into the former Sasaki on Harrison from Kosuke Tada, who has been doing pop-ups as Kosuke Bistro, pairing French food and natural wine at Ordinaire in Oakland. I reached out to him for details, and he wasn’t able to share any details, but he later posted this announcement on Instagram, which mentions “cuisine française + natural wine” with his wife, Grace Tada. The Chronicle posted more details about the upcoming bistro (it will have a set menu for $82), due to open in April. 2400 Harrison St. at 20th St.
A French brasserie from Roland Passot’s Left Bank Brasserie group is coming to the former Scala’s in the Sir Francis Drake hotel (reopening as the Beacon Grand). Details on the name and concept are forthcoming. 450 Powell St. at Sutter. [Via SFist]
A tablehopper reader asked me if I knew what was happening at IZAKAYA KOU in the Fillmore (it looked gutted and he was worried his favorite happy hour was gone forever) and it ends up the folks behind Daeho are opening a new project, BAN SANG. It will be a higher-end, modern Korean restaurant with a set menu ($70) from Ethan Min (Atelier Crenn, Saison, Kinjo) and Jin Lim (Michael Mina, Kinjo, Kabuto) in April. 1560 Fillmore St., at Geary. [Via Chronicle]
While chef Daniel Patterson’s COI has been closed throughout the pandemic, posts on Instagram and the website pointed to a hopeful reopening soon. Sadly, that is no longer the case: in a recent post, Patterson shares: “Next month Coi will turn 16. Sadly it won’t be sweet, and we won’t be open to celebrate. In 2019 lenders took over my company, and when the pandemic first hit they refused to let me reopen. I tried everything. When the Michelin Guide included Coi in the most recent guide I thought that might change their minds. I proposed a remodel and to reopen with a fresh vibe, but they still said no. It breaks my heart to lose a restaurant I put so much love and so much of my life into.” You can read more in his post—a lot of talent came through that kitchen, and it was always a groundbreaking culinary experience, highlighting unique ingredients and techniques. And it was always such a quirky find, an inviting oasis of high-end dining tucked incongruously in the midst of the Broadway strip clubs. Thank you for the memories of beautiful meals there! Patterson is busy in LA with Alta Restaurant in West Adams and Locol, and congrats on his recent engagement!
In my previous newsletter, I broke the news about Damansara opening in the ARDIANA space in Noe Valley, and I just received a note from Sharon Ardiana and her team about the official closure and sale: it was too tough to run three businesses, and while it was a good five-year run, the team “made the tough decision to close and focus our efforts on Gialina and Ragazza. Both are doing well and hopefully this summer, SF will return to a more robust dining scene and we can put these shitty 2 years behind us!” Cheers to that.
SFGate reports BAONECCI RISTORANTE in North Beach—which closed last year—has reopened as Caffe Baonecci in Frisco, Texas, which is kind of perfect. Best wishes.
Some exciting news from innovative pastry chef Luis Villavelazquez (China Live, Eight Tables, Orson): he’s launching a public-facing experience from his Tenderloin pastry and dessert consultancy Les Éléments, offering multi-course, dessert-tasting events. Tamara Palmer at 48 Hills has all the details (and pics from a preview tasting). The first tasting menu launches on Saturday March 26th at 7pm—it will continue on Saturdays through April 30th. (Here’s the preview menu—you’ll note plenty of savory elements, it’s not just a sweet-fest.) There’s room for up to ten people. The price is $65, plus an 18 percent service charge. Reserve by sending a direct message to @leselements on Instagram. 442 Hyde St. at O’Farrell.
My friend Leo, the chef-owner at Kirimachi Ramen, is hosting his friend Sumi on Fridays for Sake Omakase, a pop-up event that features about 5-7 carefully selected sakes with a variety of paired seasonal appetizers, from Japanese-style seafood to French-inspired bites as well. The latest menu includes dishes like scallop carpaccio, komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach) vegetable rolls, Satsuma wagyu beef with koji salt, and hojicha warabi mochi and pudding for dessert. Sake selections include Ryujin Hidden Ginjo Namazume and Oze JDG Genshu—you can see the latest seasonal menu on the site. The meal is $150 including tax, but not gratuity. Fridays, 6pm, book here. 3 Embarcadero Center.
This Thursday March 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, and restaurants and bars are running special dishes and offers for you to celebrate with.
ONE MARKET RESTAURANT will be serving a fantastic three-course menu: Irish leek and potato soup, corned beef brisket and cabbage, and an Irish creme pot de crème, just $49. Available Thursday March 17th-Saturday March 19th, for both lunch and dinner.
St. Patrick’s Day is HAYES STREET GRILL’s 43rd anniversary, and they’re celebrating with a fantastic menu, with a complimentary shot of Irish whiskey at lunch or dinner, and Irish coffee sundaes, check it out here.
ALLEY & VINE in Alameda is offering a three-course meal for $49, featuring house-cured corned beef with all of the fixings.
BLUESTEM RESTAURANT & MARKET is featuring a corned beef BAOnini ($9.99), a Chinese-style, bao-type bun with corned beef, Irish cheddar, and kale and carrot inside—they steam the bun and griddle it to order for a crisp, hot, golden crust. Enjoy it with their Karl the Fog cocktail, a play on an Irish coffee.
CHARMAINE’S will be offering a rare whiskey flight, including 1967 Dunphy’s, 1970s John Power & Son, 1950 Paddy 10-year, and 1960 Old Bushmills. The special whiskey flight will be available on Thursday March 17th from 5pm-11pm. Make a reservation here.
Oakland Updates: Oakland Restaurant Week Launches March 18th, Brunch at Bar Comal, Mr. Espresso Opening a Caffè
It’s time to head out for Oakland Restaurant Week, running this Friday March 18th-27th. There are over 80 special dining experiences and offers from local gems to newly opened eateries—lunches will be offered at $10, $15, and $25, while dinners will be offered at $25, $40, and $60. It’s your chance to check out the new Bombera or Tribune, say hello to Tay Ho, shake it up at Shakewell, and get some cheesy bread with your Square Pie Guys pie. There are so many neighborhoods you can explore, from Perle in Montclair to Los Cocos in Fruitvale. Get more ideas at @visitoakland on Facebook and Instagram.
I was very happy with the news that Mr. Espresso will open its first cafe this May in Downtown Oakland: THE CAFFÈ BY MR. ESPRESSO. The Oakland-based, family-run coffee company has been roasting and distributing Italian-style, oak wood-roasted coffee for nearly 45 years (I love their Neapolitan espresso). The 1,200-square-foot café and retail shop will be on the ground floor of the new 18-story office tower, dubbed “The Key at 12th.” Stand by for updates as the opening gets closer. 1120 Broadway, Oakland.
Brunch fans, BAR COMAL in Oakland’s Adams Point neighborhood is launching brunch this Saturday March 19th. Chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, tacos, and more will be on offer, along with brunch cocktails. Served Sat-Sun 10am-2pm. 550 Grand Ave., Oakland.