Hello hello. It sure was nice to get up Tuesday morning and see all my sparkly plants (and spiderwebs) on my fire escape bedazzled with water droplets from that tropical storm that came through. Nature’s diamonds!
This Friday is the mid-autumn festival (or moon festival), with all kinds of events happening around the City (I just posted some in my Instagram Highlights). Which reminds me: I want some mooncakes from Eastern Bakery! One item that blew my mind: @sfchinatown.today posted a reel showing Golden Gate Bakery open and selling mooncakes! I couldn’t believe it—their hours were always extremely unpredictable even before the pandemic (on vacation, again?!), but the boarded-up windows for months and months made me believe they were never coming back. There aren’t any egg custard tarts/dan tat on the shelves, don’t get tooooo egg-cited, but a recent post on Yelp said: “They said egg tarts would be available after mooncake season, and that I could call in October to confirm before making a trip over.” Color me hopeful!
Also happening this weekend is the Portola Music Festival, so if you’re wondering where that bass and any pew-pews are coming from, it’s all going down at Pier 80. The rhythm, the trax, the Basement Jaxx! I’m hoping things settle down here at home with Fortuna so I can go boogie.
I know some of you love good deals as much as I do, so I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss the last day of a crazy sale on Feed! Um, a Baby Sinclair pizza from Roberta’s in Brooklyn for just $6.25? The a-ma-zing cherry ice cream sandwich from Frog Hollow Farm for $7.88? Do it! Use code MARCIA20 for $20 off your first order! Check my profile for some of my product favorites and be sure to follow me for more features and discoveries.
On a personal note, I want to thank all of you who wrote in with advice and recommendations and empathy about Fortuna’s health condition right now (FIC: feline interstitial cystitis/feline idiopathic cystitis). As I expected, some of you had incredible resources and products and behaviorists to share. Thank you thank you. Sadly, we’re still grappling with things over here, and coming up on week three of continued bladder inflammation/flare-ups. It’s been rough. Here’s hoping this current bout ends and we get this figured out really soon.
I have been home almost every night hanging out with kitty puss, but I did manage to head out for a preview dinner of the swanky La Connessa last week (details in today’s chatterbox). Wait until you see that bar!
One more outing: we had a fantastic family dinner celebrating my Mom’s birthday at the reopened Mountain House on Skyline in Woodside. New owners chef Dmitry Elperin (The Village Pub) and chef William Roberts have done a thoughtful update of the 99-year-old tavern nestled in the redwoods, which is now featuring seasonal and coastal dishes, like seared diver scallops (with sweet peperonata and smoked prosciutto) and a crudo of Pacific tuna, and a bone-in, bison rib-eye au poivre was a special on Saturday night. Great wine list, too. The team went above and beyond to make our night memorable (it was a milestone birthday for Mom), including securing a custom and gorgeous floral table display from a busser’s mother’s flower shop, Half Moon Flowers, and making a decadent chocolate-espresso layer cake (my Mom’s favorite) for our group! Just wow. Try to book an early table in the glassed-in forest room so you can feel like you’re in a treehouse in the redwoods, while the cozy, woodsy main room has a crackling fireplace and welcoming bar. It was such a lovely night.
Oh, hey, my latest piece for the October issue of Nob Hill Gazette just posted online: check out my feature about Aphotic, which includes details about their eight-course cocktail tasting menu and innovative seafood charcuterie program. Such a great bar, I could use a Montara right now. Now that my piece is live, I’ll be sharing more pics on @tablehopper.
Meow for now,
The Spiffy La Connessa Now Open from Bacchus Management Group in Potrero Hill
Those of you who follow me on Instagram got a sneak peek of the new La Connessa restaurant from Bacchus Management Group—it just opened Monday September 25th in Potrero Hill, in the Mason on Mariposa development by Related. The 86-seat dining room has high ceilings and high drama, the kind of nicer neighborhood place where you might have a little too much to drink (oops).
There’s a 24-seat curving bar with tall and glowing backlit bottle shelves (they look like massive frosted windows), and suspended, round light fixtures of different sizes, all by Magnus Schevene. The tile floor picks up the woven pattern of the French bistro chairs and barstool-chairs. And then there’s the glassed-in and gleaming exhibition kitchen—it’s all so new and shiny. Whether you’re a deuce on a date, flying solo, or a larger group, there are all kinds of seating options. Stephen Brady (who also designed BMG’s Selby’s, The Saratoga, and Spruce) and Craig Trettau of Left Coast Design Studio are behind the upscale (but still comfortable) Euro-tinged design.
Billed as a “modern take on the classic trattoria,” you’ll find dishes from all regions in Italy (every year, Bacchus chefs are invited on a culinary travel program, which includes trips to Italy for inspiration), as well as a strong California-seasonal touch. The menu was primarily developed by director of culinary operations Angelo Smith (executive chef of BMG’s Pizza Antica for about five years), and in case you were wondering where chef Freedom Rains ended up (previously A Mano), he’s the chef de cuisine here. Bacchus partner and executive chef Mark Sullivan has also been hands-on with the menu.
I think the large section of antipasti really speaks to how people like to eat these days: if you’re at the bar for aperitivo time, there’s Emilian gnocco fritto with prosciutto di San Daniele, and Ligurian focaccia di Recco (paper-thin and crisp focaccia filled with stracchino cheese), or you can nosh on arancini and Tuscan chicken liver crostini over a glass of Italian wine. Maybe you want to order the roasted Italian broccoli with bottarga as a side for your main (there are seven salads and seasonal vegetables, including roasted Jimmy Nardello peppers).
There are five housemade pasta dishes, from the simple but reportedly captivating spaghettino al limone (instead of the ubiquitous cacio e pepe)...
Four kinds of pizza are coming out from the Marra Forni wood-fired pizza oven, sporting a thin crust, with a nicely puffed cornicione and even leopard spotting. The three mains include a fantastic pollo al mattone (chicken under a brick), cleverly made with a tangy salmoriglio sauce (similar to a chimichurri, and typically an accompaniment or marinade for fish in Southern Italy). There’s also local rock cod in acqua pazza, and a rib-eye tagliata.
At the test dinner, we tried ricotta zeppole, but the rich, housemade pistachio gelato was what captured my dessert fancy. The lemon-basil was such a refreshing summer flavor. (There’s also vanilla and huckleberry.)
The cocktail list (there are 17 options!) is from Mathew “One T” Frantin, who was the AGM and bar manager at Lolinda and El Techo before coming over to Spruce/Bacchus as a bartender (he’s now director of bars and spirits at BMG). The list made me wish I had two livers, I wanted to try them all. There are some spritzes, like a Garibaldi Sbagliato (gin, Campari, Cointreau, orange juice, prosecco; $17), and aperitivi made with fruit-and-herb vermouths, and then there are Martinis, like the brilliant Tomatini (vodka or gin, tomato water consommé, Gorgonzola olives; $18). Classics like a Paper Plane keep company with a White Negroni (The Botanist Gin, Suze, Lillet Blanc; $16). And then there’s the extensive list of aperitivi, digestivi and amari, and vintage Italian selections, like Ramazzotti from the 1970s, and three eras of Cinzano Savoia. We all have some work to do!
The predominantly Italian wine list (with a focus on small, family-owned producers) from Jaime Pinedo really spoke to me, with the ability to try the metodo classico carricante (Benanti, Noblesse, Terre Siciliane, Brut, Sicilia 2019; $24), and then a still carricante (Buscemi, Il Bianco, Sicilia 2021; $19). Pecorino for $13 by the glass, grazie. If I could still drink red wine, I’d be all over that frappato (Valle dell’Acate, Il Frappato, Sicilia 2021; $13) with a pizza. So much Sicilia, love it.
As for the name, connessa means “connected” in Italian, which refers to the three adjoining projects that are also opening in the same building (and all share back access to their kitchens). Opening Monday October 2nd will be the absolutely adorable Magic Donuts & Coffee (I’ll have an update for you in the next hopper on these fluffy doughnuts made with sourdough starter instead of the standard doughnut mix). And then on Wednesday October 18th, is the opening of Louie’s Original, with three kinds of burgers (including the Big-Sister Burger, aka the Spruce burger), corn flake–coated chicken strips, all kinds of fries, shakes, and custard cones; I’ll have a firsthand report for you on that one in the October 17th tablehopper issue.
La Connessa: open Sun–Thu 4pm–9pm (the nearby teachers and work-from-home folks will be excited over the early opening hours), Fri–Sat 4pm–10pm. Brunch will come in time. 1695 Mariposa St. at Carolina.
Exciting Update at Bar Crenn
New Openings Include Cochinita in South San Francisco, Collina, Xiān Bistro
Congrats to the kind folks (Sergio Albornoz and Karen Gonzalez) behind the popular Cochinita food trucks, who just opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant in South San Francisco. The trucks have been gaining legions of fans all over the Bay for their Yucatecan, family-style (but also Cali-influenced) dishes since 2017, including their cochinita pibil, poc chuc, and pollo pibil in tacos, totally stuffed quesadillas, burritos, and on top of salbutes (fried handmade tortillas) and panuchos (black bean–stuffed and fried tortillas). They make excellent carne asada, too. Elote tots, also a thing.
But at their new location, they’ve added all kinds of dishes, from antojitos like sikil pa’k (Mayan pumpkin seed dip), empanadas de picadillo, and ceviche de camarón, to platos fuertes of a chile relleno, a cochinita pibil plate (you can sub for their pollo pibil thigh, yum), and tacos de pescado!
There are sampler plates if you’re with a group and don’t want to decide. Vegetarians and vegans also have options. Look for even more new dishes being added to the menu as they get their sea legs, and there are also cocktails!
Brunch plates will include huevos motuleños (a specialty of the Yucatán, with fried eggs and ham over black beans on a fried tortilla, served with salsa and plantains) and French toast (“estilo caballero pobre”). Open 10am–7pm all week. 334 Grand Ave. at Linden, South San Francisco.
Seven Hills in Russian Hill is just about to open Collina (which is Italian for “little hill”) in their original and cozy Seven Hills location, just three blocks away on Nob Hill at 1550 Hyde Street (Eater reports owner Alexis Solomou has been hanging onto the space for the past four years).
The menu from executive chef-partner Anthony Florian and sous chef Dennis Diaz (who will be running Collina’s kitchen) is more affordable and neighborhood-friendly than big sis, with a few shareable starters (arancini, Little Gem salad), three fresh pasta dishes (including a classic raviolo al uovo—the dish originated over 50 years ago at Ristorante San Domenico in Imola, Italy—filled with ricotta, Swiss chard, and an egg for $22, and a 48-layer lasagnette, $18/$26), chicken al mattone (cooked under a brick) with salsa verde for $26, trippa with a fried egg ($22), and a few seasonal vegetable contorni (sides) for $10. Sommelier Lucia Solomou has assembled an all-Italian wine list. Opening this Thursday September 28th; Mon and Thu 5pm–9pm, Fri–Sat 5pm–9:30pm, Sun 5pm–9pm, closed Tue–Wed. 1550 Hyde St. at Pacific.
Coming Soon on Polk: Takers for the Former Aux Delices and Shalimar Spaces
Sad Closures in the City (Barbacco), But Some May Be Saved (Sam Wo), and Some Are Temporary (Izzy’s)
After 14 years of feeding downtown workers delicious pastas and polpette over glasses of Italian wine and spritzes, Barbacco is sadly closing its doors. The Financial District hasn’t bounced back after the pandemic (we know this all too well), and even though owner Umberto Gibin tried to remain optimistic that 2023 was going to be a turning point, it wasn’t—in fact, this year has seemed especially hard on restaurants.
Barbacco’s last service is this Friday September 29th, so you can come by for some final fettuccine Bolognese for lunch or dinner—Umberto would love to see you. Some good news is the adjoining and more-upscale Perbacco has fared better throughout the pandemic, and has even launched a new happy hour menu (Tue–Fri 4pm–6pm), and is gearing up for the holiday season. So as Barbacco’s farewell post says, “It’s not farewell, it’s see you next door.” Grazie mille for all the meals and memories—we know this is a heartbreaking experience for so many operators right now. 220 California St. at Battery.
My heart dropped to see the news that one of Chinatown’s oldest and most iconic restaurants (partially famous due to its infamously abrasive waiter, Edsel Ford Fong): Sam Wo Restaurant is on the brink of closing in a year—unless a new owner steps up to take over the business. SF Standard reports owner David Jitong Ho has been running the restaurant for 42 years, and at 68 years old, he’s exhausted and wants to retire. His children don’t want to take over the business—siblings Jason and Julie Ho have been part of the restaurant since they were teenagers, but they justifiably want to have their own lives and careers, and Julie wants to be present for her children.
Back in 2012, the restaurant had to close when the City’s Health Department forced the original location on Washington (which opened shortly after the 1906 quake, that’s how old it was!) to come up to code, an extremely expensive and practically impossible task. When lease negotiations with their landlord failed, Ho’s daughter, Julie, rallied to save the restaurant, and Sam Wo moved and reopened in its current location on Clay in 2015.
SF Standard reports “Steven Lee, an investor and co-founder of the new Sam Wo, said the ownership team can’t sign long-term leases with the landlord until they find a younger family willing to take the business on.” The current lease ends January 2025, and can go month-to-month as needed.
I can’t imagine San Francisco without Sam Wo’s chashu (barbecue pork) noodle roll, jook with Chinese doughnut, and amazing hot mustard. Since 1908. May the restaurant be like a cat, and have a chance at yet another life—here’s hoping another family takes it over. In the meantime, go pay a visit. 713 Clay St. at Kearny.
By Savannah Leone Bundy:
Izzy’s Steaks and Chops is taking a little break for renovations this fall (considering it has been open since 1987, it’s time for a little refresher!). The Marina district steakhouse announced last week that starting Saturday October 21st, doors will close until next summer. The restaurant will get kitchen improvements, seating and parking enhancements, and upgraded private dining dining spaces. Until then, Izzy’s is open Sun–Thu 5pm–9pm and Fri–Sat 5pm–9:30pm. 3345 Steiner St. at Chestnut.
Hellos and Goodbyes in the East Bay
by Savannah Leone Bundy
La Cocina alum chef Dilsa Lugo is proud to announce the reopening of Los Cilantros after an extended closure due to Covid. The Berkeley eatery became an instant favorite when it first opened in 2014, gaining popularity for its quality ingredients, handmade tortillas, and authentic Mexican dishes. Located at La Peña Cultural Center, the newly renovated space offers an exciting, revamped menu featuring aguachile tostadas, a chile relleno with fresh tortillas, and esquites (sautéed sweet corn, epazote, lime aioli, cotija, chile de árbol). Open Wed–Sun 11am–3pm and 5pm–9pm. 3105 Shattuck Ave. at Prince, Berkeley.
Also in the East Bay, Matt Horn’s newest Oakland venture, Matty’s Old Fashioned, is rolling out brunch and lunch menus and extending daily hours. Horn’s ode to the classic American diner blends nostalgia and upscale indulgence (while keeping the price right) with weekend brunch items like...
Brunch is available Sat–Sun 10am–3pm, lunch Tue–Fri 12pm–3pm, and dinner Tue–Fri 4pm–11pm and Sat 5pm–11pm. 464 8th St. at Broadway, Oakland.
In far-less-joyful news, Oakland icon Le Cheval announced that it will close its doors this month, after 38 years of serving upscale Vietnamese food in Oakland’s downtown neighborhood. The family-run operation, known throughout the Bay for its claypot dishes, garlic noodles, lemongrass chicken, and cube beef steak, will be sorely missed. The announcement comes after a rise in burglaries and other crimes in the area, an issue local business owners hope to address with a one-day strike happening Tuesday. [Via SFGate]
Casa Borinqueña, the charming Puerto Rican spot in Berkeley offering vegan spins on Caribbean classics like mofongo and pastelitos, has also announced its closure this month (via Eater). After just about a year at her brick-and-mortar location on Shattuck, owner Lourdes “Lu-Lu” Marquez-Nau was forced to give up the space due to ongoing battles against ever-rising costs and health department regulations. Casa Borinqueña planned on continuing to operate as a catering company, providing event service and participating in pop-ups around the area, but tragically, a truck containing their equipment was stolen from in front of their house, with little chance of recovery. What a heartbreak. A GoFundMe to help Lu-Lu get through this rough time is here. Follow @casaborinquena for updates.