The Tablehopper, Marcia Gagliardi
By Susan Dyer Reynolds
Photo by Andrea Scher, SuperheroDesigns.com
When I met Marcia Gagliardi four years ago, I was the editor of Northside San Francisco and the Marina Times, and she was planning to roll out a restaurant gossip and review e-column called The Tablehopper (sign up for free at www.tablehopper.com). Just before she launched, I purchased Northside S.F. and the Marina Times. I asked Marcia to write a Tablehopper column, which she does for us until this day. Like her popular e-column, her Northside S.F. column is a reader favorite. The secret to Marcia’s success is a combination of her unique voice – a droll, witty take on all things edible and potable – and that she is one of the hardest-working people in the Bay Area restaurant scene today. All that hard work led to the recent publication of her first book, The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco, released last month by Ten Speed Press. Marcia has hit the book tour full force with nearly a dozen events in April alone, and, like everything Tablehopper, these won’t be ordinary book signings, ranging from a hot dog happy hour at the Ferry Building on April 14 to a two-martini lunch at Bix on April 29 (for a full list of events, visit www.tablehopper.com).
Fun Fact: Marcia describes her refrigerator as a “hippy fridge,” because she tries to eat healthfully at home. She does admit to some “contraband chorizo,” at least eight pickled items, and a mustard obsession (she currently keeps eight kinds). Her hot sauce collection is equally impressive, pushing a dozen mostly local blends from restaurants including Memphis Minnie’s, farmerbrown and Wexler’s.
What inspired you to become the Tablehopper?
Editors not responding to pitch letters. I was pitching stories and not getting a response or, “Thanks, but no thanks.” It was frustrating because there were so many things I wanted to write about. Tablehopper was partially restaurant gossip, but also exposing people to cafes or little sandwich shops in the neighborhoods that weren’t getting covered by the press. I also wanted to tell people about restaurant specials and promotions – in a weekly newsletter, you can tell people about transient stuff.
How has your e-column evolved since you started writing it?
The concept has remained the same, but the content has grown. I looked at my original business plan recently, and it is very much the same. I have added guest writers, like the Book Worm, which started when Pete Mulvihill from Green Apple Books wrote and said, “Please don’t link to Amazon; support your local businesses.” And there’s the Hardhat – a look behind the scenes, and the Wino, with a guest bartender or sommelier. I enjoy having people write about something they’re passionate about, whether its bitters or Bonarda.
What is the difference between an e-column and a blog?
The primary difference is that it’s e-mailed to subscribers. The website is an archive, though I do have some content on the site now that is not in the e-column, like “10 Places to Eat at Now.” A blog is freeform – you just write when you feel like it. I have a structure, with sections like the Chatterbox for gossip, the Lush for wine events, and the Starlet for star sightings.
As an editor, I get between 30 and 50 books a week, the majority of them about food. What sets your book apart?
It’s a groundbreaking approach to how to find restaurants. No one has ever addressed why we dine out – we dine out for occasions, not by neighborhood or cuisine. It’s based on real experience living here for 15 years and having a deep understanding of the City. Everything in the book is very curated – this is my San Francisco. These are my little secrets. I want locals and visitors alike to have the same experience of feeling really connected.
Why do you not like to write negative reviews?
Philosophically, I am an optimistic, positive person. It’s so hard to make a living running a restaurant. They can be bad for so many reasons – burnt-out chef, bad management – those places will burn out on their own. I would rather focus on a good meal. Instead of spending energy on those not doing well, I would rather focus on those that are doing well. If I can send them to a restaurant they wouldn’t have known about and get that restaurant more business, yea!
Biggest pet peeve about service?
“Are you still working on that?” That just sets my teeth on edge.
Most overdone culinary trends?
Pizza and handmade pasta; I also am tired of burger mania.
An ingredient that ruins a dish for you?
Truffle oil. I loathe it. I won’t order a dish if there is truffle oil.
If you had to eat at one restaurant every day for a month, which would it be?
SPQR. The new chef is fantastic. The menu is so extensive – it’s unbelievable how many dishes come out of that little kitchen, and it changes all the time so I could eat there for a month and never get tired of it.
Top Tablehopper picks for Mother’s Day in the Northside?
Waterbar. I brought my grandmother and her best friend there; they loved the view and the fresh seafood, it’s sunny, and they have great service. I think it would be fun to go to 1300 on Fillmore for a jazz brunch. Magic Flute does good eggs benedict, and it’s just so feminine. And it would be incredible to go to the Ritz. They don’t do their weekly brunches on the Terrace anymore, but they’re doing it for Mother’s Day including the omelet station, seafood bar, and the hand-carved meat station – and I highly recommend their Ramos gin fizz.