Fusilli con grassato di capra (housemade knitting needle pasta with braised goat) at a luncheon at Rosetta and Lino Costantino’s home to celebrate the launch of Pasta Grannies: Comfort Cooking. It was like being back in Calabria at my relatives’ dinner table. Photo: © tablehopper.com.
Hi gang, I know today is a tense one—hopefully the welcome rain and a stiff cocktail (or quality and low-dose weed beverage) will help you deal with things. It’s a good night for some mac and cheese. (I have a bunch of pasta recipes on my Pinterest board, in case you’re looking for carb inspo.) Did you vote? You have until 8pm!
Tonight, I’m busy in Oakland with the first of two Schmaltzy events I’m co-producing this week with the Jewish Food Society (you should check out their new site)! SF’s event is on Thursday—looking forward to seeing you! Both events have sold out, and the waitlist is pretty long, just FYI!
One event you can still get tickets to is an evening with culinary goddess Nigella Lawson, who is touring the U.S. right now, and stopping in SF on Monday November 14th! (She will also be appearing in Santa Rosa on the 16th.) I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing her for Nob Hill Gazette’s November issue, you can read my piece here. We could have chatted for hours. She’s so warm, earthy, and simply divine!
With Thanksgiving coming up quickly, I’m posting updates daily on where to go out for or take home a turkey (or plant-based) dinner, pie, sides, and more in my Instagram Stories Highlight!
You can imagine I am beyond swamped this week with my newsletter deadline hitting the same week as these two events, so I need to bounce! I have a big story in today’s column about the return of the Savoy-Tivoli in North Beach, plus another new project in the neighborhood, love to see it.
Take good care, Marcia Gagliardi
New Openings (and Reopenings): Friends Only from Ray Lee (Akiko's), Liholiho, Pinsa Rossa, Keys Jazz Bistro, More
I’ve been avidly watching the Instagram account of Ray Lee of Akiko’s, one of my top top sushi bars in SF (sidebar: I’m super-excited for their upcoming reopening in a brand-new location later this year on Avery Lane on Folsom, more on that soon), but in the meantime, it looks like his exclusive, 10-seat omakase counter FRIENDS ONLY is currently and softly open. (Check out some Instagram Stories here, the seafood selections are exquisite!)
Back in August, Eater reported on this project coming to Lower Nob Hill that was going to serve as Lee’s R&D kitchen for Akiko’s, serving four nights a week. The omakase menu highlights an aging program of top-quality seafood from Japan, with cocktails and vintage Champagnes and more. I’m thrilled to be checking it out this week, stand by for details from me on this exciting project. Welcome back, Ray and team. 1501 California St. at Larkin.
I was happy to receive an invite to the reopening of LIHOLIHO YACHT CLUB this month, which many folks have been eagerly anticipating since the restaurant has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic. It reopens November 22nd, with some light updates to the space and menu, here’s a look at what’s coming: [The Chronicle]
Fabulous tablehopper media researcher Rebecca tipped me off that PINSA ROSSA, the new place from Ken Lowe of Ace Wasabi Sushi that I mentioned was opening in the former Santino’s Vino (previously Dino’s) is now open! He has been working with the Santino’s team to get this new Roman pinseria concept open; the chef is Leo Cugnata, who previously worked at Montesacro and Gusto Pinsa Romana.
The menu includes 16 kinds of pinsa (!), including prosciutto and stracciatella di burrata, carbonara, and an Italian sausage and potato pinsa. Of course, I’m curious about the Calabrian Cotto (smoked scamorza cheese, prosciutto cotto, shredded mozzarella, Calabrian chile spread, fresh parsley). The dough features a high-protein blend of rice, soy, and wheat flours, which comes out airy, crisp, lighter on gluten, and is therefore easier for some to digest (we have Montesacro to thank for educating us on this style). There are also some antipasti, salads, and a couple pasta dishes (lasagne bolognese and gnocchi). The wine list is primarily Italian, with a few Californian and Greek selections (yamas, Dino!). Open Tue-Thu 4:3pm-9pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-10pm, Sun 4pm-9pm. 2101 Fillmore St. at California.
Opening this Thursday November 10th on Broadway in North Beach (many years ago, it was the former Vanessi’s) is KEYS JAZZ BISTRO from jazz educator, pianist, and co-owner Dr. Simon Rowe, as well as co-owner Matt Mullenweg (who co-founded WordPress!) and Eric Vance will oversee general operations. “Keys” will present music and dinner four nights a week, with two sets and two seatings, and three sets on Fridays and Saturdays. A casual, seasonal menu with signature cocktails and non-alcoholic options will be available. The 4,000-square-foot space will seat 125, and features a state-of-the-art sound system, a Yamaha Concert grand piano, and a resident Hammond B3 organ. Check out their opening lineup and make a reservation for a night on the town with some live jazz. 498 Broadway at Kearny.
I’m going to be posting pics about this very soon at @tablehopper on Instagram, but in case you’re looking for the perfect private room for a group dinner, or an exciting communal dinner experience with strangers on Fridays, check out the new Gilda’s Salon Dinners at the Proper Hotel.
Chef Jason Fox has crafted an 11-course tasting menu ($220) that is served in Proper’s glam private salon, Gilda’s. The textured room is simply gorgeous, with wallpaper and vintage furnishings and sexy lighting from style queen Kelly Wearstler. (I was beyond obsessed with the Eastern European china.) Chef Fox’s love of Japanese cuisine and seafood really shines, with seasonal dishes like Mendocino sea urchin with sesame tofu and dashi; Japanese firefly squid kissed over the coals; and sweetbreads cooked in beeswax with chestnut and truffles. And the wine pairings ($100) are so fabulous. The whole experience will make you swoon, for many reasons, so be sure you take a cab. 10 seats. Fridays only (for now), 7pm. San Francisco Proper Hotel, 1100 Market St.
I hate writing about every single restaurant closure, but some are definitely tough when it’s an operator you really admire and respect. In this case, it’s the one and only Bruce Hill, who’s closing the trail- (and wood-) blazing ZERO ZERO in SoMa after 12 years of business. The “Calipolitan” pizzas that came out of Hill’s wood-fired Mugnaini oven were part of the early wood-fired pizza wave in SF, and his soft-serve ice cream drizzled with olive oil and sea salt was also new to our culinary scene (he pioneered that one back in 2005). Zero Zero was a great neighborhood restaurant and the perfect answer when you wanted a cocktail and a seasonal salad and hearty bowl of pasta for dinner.
As we all know, the pandemic has been particularly rough on SoMa—no convention business and no office workers coming by for techy lunches and dinners and drinks made things extremely challenging, and delivery and frozen pizzas were not going to make up for it. It has been a tough decision after fighting so hard to keep going, but it was time to call it. Hill has retained employees for ten years and more, including his chef Jose Canto, who has been there since day one. Hill will continue as executive chef/partner at Bix, and his Chef’s Press is also keeping him busy. In case you’re on the hunt for a space, there are eight years on the lease—Hill is looking for a buyer.
Come by for a final pie and stoner garlic bread and goodbye this week. The last service will be Saturday November 12th. Sending them off with a great week of sales would be nice—you can book a reservation on Tock. Best wishes and thanks to the team for all the tasty carbs (and Negronis).
Over in Los Gatos: I received word that chef David Kinch and the MANRESA team have announced their final month of service will be December, closing out this singular restaurant’s 20-year-run on New Year’s Eve. December reservations will be released at 12am midnight (Pacific time) on November 14th on Tock. Manresa’s signature tasting menu ($595 tasting menu; $255 optional wine pairings) “will change and showcase in high style the expertise and dedication amassed over the past 20 years.” (Time for one last Into the Vegetable Garden.) On New Year’s Eve—Manresa’s final night of service—the “no-holds-barred menu” will be $725, with $325 optional wine pairings. That is going to be quite a night! In 2023, you’ll still be able to see Kinch at The Bywater, Mentone, and Manresa Bread (from founder and head baker Avery Ruzicka). Congrats on such a great run.
SFGate reports on the closure of PLOY II THAI CUISINE in the Haight, after 33 years.
I saw a post on Nextdoor that old-timer EXTREME PIZZA on Fillmore Street has closed after 28 years at that location. Other locations remain open.
(Sponsored): Restaurant Owners! Have You Filed for the Employee Retention Credit? It's Not Too Late!
Calling all restaurant owners! Have you filed for the Employee Retention Credit? It’s not too late! You can get up to $26K per employee!
Pop’s, Joe’s Taco Lounge, and a Wendy’s franchise are among the 200-plus restaurants that HigherUp has helped with the Employee Retention Credit. HigherUp is a payroll and tax firm that’s been servicing San Francisco for over 20 years.
They’ve been busy helping restaurants all across the country maximize this credit—ranging from 2 employees up to 1,000—who were forced to limit indoor dining capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some restaurants have received all the way up to $26,000 per employee. Get in touch and find out if your business qualifies for the ERC!
Many restaurants were incorrectly told they didn’t qualify for the ERC: - “I can’t qualify because my revenue went up.” Incorrect - “I got PPP loans, so I can’t get the Employee Retention Credit.” Incorrect - “I started my business during the pandemic and can’t qualify.” Incorrect
Click here to learn more and gain a better understanding of this credit.
If you’re ready to see if your restaurant qualifies for the ERC, reach out to Arran Bianchini (Solutions Consultant at HigherUp HCM), and please be sure to mention you saw the ad in tablehopper.
You gotta love a good comeback story, especially when a place is 117 years old and embedded deeply in so many people’s memories, for decades. Thanks to my North Beach wing man tipster, I learned the iconic SAVOY-TIVOLI is reopening soon. Mention the Savoy (or the Tivoli) to any longtime San Franciscan, and you’ll likely hear all kinds of tales. I remember it was one of the first bars I ever went to way back in the early 90s—it had a reputation for being a little lax on checking I.D.s because it was always so busy (bless). I loved the European vibe it had, and there was always a crowd spilling out onto Grant Avenue—it was such a scene. It makes you wonder what the crowd is going to be like now—and we’re lucky to ponder it!
The Tivoli opened in 1906—it appears the building was constructed before the Great Quake and survived, which is why it was able to reopen so quickly. I was told it used to be an Italian boarding house, with fishermen living above and eating in the restaurant downstairs. The word “Savoy” was added to the name in 1967. Over the years, it was known for being quite the Beat and bohemian and hippie hangout—as the bar would say, “A favorite of Hippies and Beats, Punks and Preps, Ladies and Gents.” I loved that you would always meet new people there on the patio, it was such a social and eclectic vibe, may it continue.
Did you know it was the original home of Steve Silver’s “Beach Blanket Babylon?” (I didn’t have time to do much fact-checking, and I want to dive deeper on the Tivoli’s history, but you can read some retrospective and historical pieces here, here, and here.)
Previous owner Claire Kozel sadly passed away in July 2021 (she was 88!)—she ran the bar with her partner Juan Cerda for years—and her son Paul Kozel was then appointed owner by the bar’s revocable trust. Since Paul lives in Miami, he reached out to his friend Tito Avila (who’s in the Bay Area) to be part of the ownership team. Avila was a bit reluctant at first—his background is in startups, and the space had fallen into quite a state of disrepair over the years—but he says, “The more I learned about the 117-year-old history, I realized I would be lucky to be part of it.” He oversaw a massive purge of clutter—it ends up very little had been thrown away by the five families who have owned it for the past century-plus. It took three months to carefully wade through the trash and treasures in the basement, but fortunately many discoveries now get another life (including an exterior sign from the 50s that is now hanging over the stage).
Designer Craige Walters of C Walters Design (August 1 Five, Black Cat, Persona) has his office above the Tivoli, and he told me it’s where he got his first job in SF when he was 15: he used to set up the chairs for the cinema in the back by the bocce court a couple nights a week (he was paid two Tequila Sunrises and $20). Like I was saying…that place played a little fast and loose back in the day when Freddie Kuh owned it. It’s also where he met the love of his life and later wife, Jenny. It’s hard to even imagine anyone better for overseeing the bar’s refresh.
Avila and Walters were dedicated to maintaining the original look of the space—they want people to walk in and notice how great it looks, but not feel like it’s something different. It’s more of a restoration than renovation—they want to bring the Savoy Tivoli back to how it felt during its heyday 30 years ago, with the terrace bar, back bar, and stage. They had to do some major work to the floors and walls, but they took such good care to preserve what they could, and hired a muralist to help match what was on the walls before. The space now feels more open, the old bar is polished up, the palm trees are there, ditto the Art Deco lights, gold lettering is being added to the windows, and they’re ready to host some live music (although they have some limitations that date back to 20 years ago, they’re hoping to be able to prove things have changed with the new ownership). And did you know: the Ramones played there, in 1976?! They’ll be rotating artwork on the patio, and North Beach’s art mayor Jeremy Fish will have an upcoming show.
The general manager is David Sabo, who worked with some bar consultants and collaborated with their current bar team on 13 cocktails, plus three low-ABV and three no-ABV cocktails (and you have two bars to order them from!). There is also going to be a wine list that pays homage to the Savoy region in the Western Alps, featuring sparkling and still wines from the area. Tivoli (a town in Lazio, Italy) should see some representation as well!
Right now, they’re waiting for sign-off from the Health Department on a few things, and one of them is quite major (and utterly insane: the inspector wants them to enclose the iconic open-air patio—which we as a city who remembers and preserves the past will not stand, stay tuned). So, the opening date is up in the air right now, but they’re pretty much ready to go. I will keep you posted, and will have some pics of the interior to share soon.
They’re playing around with opening hours—they’d like to honor the space’s reputation as a place for night-shift folks to come in early in the morning, but who knows if that crowd even exists anymore. Build it and they will come? We’ll have to wait and see. 1434 Grant Ave. at Union.
Back in April, I reported on GAMBIT LOUNGE, a new bar taking over the former Noir Lounge space in Hayes Valley from Cezar Kusik (Rubicon, Butterfly, 25 Lusk) and Edward Calhoun (Southpaw, Dogpatch Saloon, Peacekeeper, 25 Lusk). On Sunday, I swung by for an industry sneak peek, and they are due to open this Thursday November 10th.
The space has been repainted with a vibrant Prussian blue that pairs well with the elements of gold and wood throughout the space, with blue-cushioned bistro stools. There’s a front bar and back bar, plus a long communal table, high-tops or regular tables you can sit at, and a back room you’ll be able to rent for private events, plus there’s a spacious parklet out front. Take your pick—we had some great people-watching from our window seat.
Cezar has assembled an extensive wine program that leans Old World, but has some California selections as well, plus there’s a reserve list you can ask for. Four bubblies by the glass, fantastique. The cocktails include some classics (Painkiller, Sazerac) and some refreshing concoctions, like the Gentleman’s Sweep (bourbon, apricot, lemon, spiced syrup). Love seeing a list of $13 cocktails, thank you.
One of the first people I saw when I walked in was Wes Rowe (WesBurger), who’s consulting on the eclectic menu that has some spins on Eastern and Central European dishes (Cezar is Polish). I dug the creativity of these bar bites—sample dishes included a Lubuskie beef tartare (or beet) with egg yolk brightened with yuzu on top; Russ’s beet-cured salmon with brown bread; and, naturally, there are pierogi—Wes is tinkering with the fillings. Whether you’re looking for snacks or something more substantial, you’re covered (and it’s perfect food for our chillier weather now). Hours will be Tue-Sat 4pm-12am, Sun 11am-5pm. Welcome to the neighborhood. 581 Hayes St. at Laguna.
Over in the Lower Haight, I saw an ABC license hit the wires for a project called STOA from Nopalito’s Allyson Jossel, Gonzalo Guzman, Joji Sumi, and Nopa and Liholiho’s former bartender, Yanni Kehagiaras, opening in the former Fort Point Beer taproom. The Chronicle reports cocktails will be the primary focus here, with some seasonal California small plates (not Mexican—they aren’t duplicating Nopalito!), and perhaps a few larger dishes. Look for a spring 2023 opening. 701 Haight St. at Pierce.