Hungry Palate The Tablehopper
What does pizza from a world champ pizza maker taste like? You’ll soon find out
By Marcia Gagliardi
Hard times make it a good time for pizza: it’s inexpensive, tasty, and something you would eat a few times every week if your waistline would allow it (well, at least that’s my feeling). Moving into the short-lived Lou’s at the Square space in North Beach, formerly La Felce, is Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton Street). The Tony is Tony Gemignani of Pyzano’s in Castro Valley, the well-known World Pizza Cup (2007) and nine-time world pizza champion, pizza acrobat, and the first-time winner outside of Naples to claim the title of best Neapolitan pizza at the Trofeo Città di Napoli Campionato Internazionale Per Pizzaioli. He’s opening the project with partners Bruno Di Fabio, who owns pizzerias in Connecticut, and Nancy Puglisi.
During the day, it will be the International School of Pizza. Gemignani, a certified master from the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, will be certifying chefs in classic Italian, Neapolitan and Roman pizza styles, plus New York, California and Chicago styles. Gemignani is the first master instructor and U.S.-based representative of the Scuola to open a location in the U.S. Some Italian masters will fly in to teach courses as well. There will also be two-day courses for home chefs, kids and senior citizens. As for the ovens, there will be a special wood-burning oven, a Cirigliano that Gemignani won from the Naples competition, plus a brick oven and Italian electric oven – all three oven styles are needed for classes at the school.
For dinner, there will be traditional Neapolitan, Italian and American classic pizzas on the menu, plus some pastas, dessert, and there’s a full bar. It will also feature an open kitchen, with Gemignani working alongside other professional pizza makers. Ingredients will be a mix of imported and local. The owners are really excited to be opening in North Beach, and hope to make it happen by May.
Just around the corner, North Beach Lobster Shack (532 Green Street) has closed. Owner Russell Deutsch says it was a tough location for the business, with parking issues and a lack of a big lunch scene. They do 10 times the business at their Old Port Lobster Shack in Redwood City, so they plan to open another location in Cupertino or Sunnyvale. He sold the location to two brothers planning to open a Belgian fry place that will be open late into the night – stand by for more. Sounds like it will be a good match for the delicious beers on offer at Church Key on Grant.
Also in the neighborhood: at press time 15 Romolo (15 Romolo Place, 415-398-1359) in North Beach was due to reopen after a facelift on Feb. 19. There will be a new weekly menu of affordable bar food, with about 6–10 items on the chalkboard per day. The look will be warm and inviting, and will give a nod to pre-Prohibition, with amber-pink lighting, and long banquettes along the side. The bar will be open at 5:30 p.m., with food served nightly from 6 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. or so.
Things are definitely on the rise in Jackson Square: Pickles (42 Columbus Avenue) from Tom Duffy will serve burgers and more in the former Clown Alley space (more on that next month), there’s A5 (mentioned below), and there’s also Cotogna (490 Pacific Avenue) opening in the former Myth Cafe location from Michael and Lindsay Tusk of Quince. Cotogna means quince in Italian, and will be a casual restaurant concept that’s scheduled to open in April. There will be a wood-fired oven and rotisserie featuring a different daily roast, like spit-roasted whole fish, small game birds and meats; pizzas; house-made pastas; and vegetables, all made with high-quality local and seasonal ingredients.
Cotogna will have 40 seats and offer continuous service that will start with lunch at 11 a.m., then dinner at 5:30 p.m., and a late-night menu until midnight. There will also be a cocktail and spirits program, custom-blended house red and white wines offered by the glass and carafe, and an extensive by-the-glass program. Olle Lundberg (Slanted Door, Moss Room) is designing both spaces – and in case you are wondering, the new Quince location is slated to open in May in the former Myth location.
More Quince news: they have hired pastry chef William Werner as executive pastry chef for Quince and the upcoming new locations in Jackson Square. Werner’s background includes training with Daniel Boulud in New York City, working as the executive pastry chef of Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay and Spruce, and running his own creative consulting firm, polite/persuasion.
Now doing a soft opening in the former frisson location is A5 Steak Lounge (244 Jackson Street), named after the highest grade of beef. It will offer a contemporary take on a steakhouse menu, with smaller portions for those who aren’t up to eating a monster porterhouse. The steaks will be U.S. Prime, with some A5 Wagyu from Japan. The menu and many details are still being worked out, but chef Marc Vogel is leading the kitchen. The project is from Steve and Albert Chen (no relation), ex-managers of Circolo and investors in Bin 38 and Louie’s Bar and Grill on Stevenson. There are around 85 seats, with three private dining rooms, and the lounge. The grand opening is slated for March 10.
Over in Cow Hollow, after 14 years of business, Plumpjack Cafe (3127 Fillmore Street, 415-563-4755) will close for a remodel and reconcepting, effective Friday, February 28. According to a statement from the publicist, the owners decided “It is time for the business to evolve to keep up with the changing desires of their neighborhood.” But where on earth are the regulars going to go in the meantime for their tuna tartare cones?
The new American gastropub, The Tipsy Pig, has opened in the former Bistro Yoffi space in the Marina (2231 Chestnut Street, 415-292-2300). The crew behind the project is Nate Valentine, Stryker Scales, and executive chef Sam Josi of the Sustainable Restaurants group (Mamacita, Umami and Blue Barn), and the co-executive chef is Daniel Burckhard (Blue Barn, Foreign Cinema and Greens). The brunch, lunch, and dinner menus highlight American pub classics made with seasonal and artisanal ingredients, sourcing a majority of produce from the Josi family’s Oak Hill Farm in Sonoma.
The look is rustic and warm, and includes the space’s original 10-seat wooden bar that dates back to 1931 and many recycled items, plus brown walls, wood floors, and large chalkboards with daily specials. You’ll find a sunny 50-seat patio in the back with communal picnic tables, a canopy of trees, and a garden with pink lemons, grapefruit, Buddha’s hand, and herbs. The bar program includes updated American classic cocktails, wine, and eight beers on tap, with 15 beers by the bottle, including their exclusive Tipsy Pig Brew. As for the name, here’s the story: During England’s apple season (October–April), farmers would send pigs to retrieve fallen apples, and because the apples would often ferment, the pigs would get drunk or “tipsy.” Hours are 5 p.m.–2 a.m., with food served until 10:30 p.m. Brunch and lunch service will start later this month.
Some Union Square news: the former executive chef of Baraka, Chad Newton, is the new chef at Urban Tavern (333 O’Farrell Street, 415-923-4400) at the Hilton San Francisco. He will be working with Donna Scala, who is returning from a scouting trip in France. Laurent Manrique’s C&L Partners and executive chef Patrick Kehler are no longer involved with the project.
Here’s a deal that’s hard to beat: every Wednesday, the Petite Cafe at Grand Cafe (501 Geary Street, 415-292-0101) is offering steak frites and a draft beer for only $18.
More food that’s easy on your wallet: I mentioned earlier this year that Tajine on Upper Polk had closed, and in its place is now City Kebab (1338 Polk Street, 415-440-4410). On the menu: Mediterranean dips like hummus and baba ghannoush, soup and salads, wraps like gyros, falafel, and adana kebab (nothing over $6.95); plates of kebabs, gyros, falafel, and beyti that come with salad, rice pilaf, and bread for about $10.95 each. Hours are 11 a.m.–11 p.m. daily. Dig in!
Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at www.tablehopper.com and get it in your inbox every Tuesday. She additionally writes for San Francisco magazine, Edible San Francisco, and Fodors.com. Got a hot tip? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.