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The Tablehopper
The changing tides at Aqua (and Fifth Floor), plus a new kitchen ‘emperor’ at SPQR
By Marcia Gagliardi

I’m back! I actually needed to take two months off from this column to get my manuscript written, so as you can imagine, we have a lot of news to catch up on. Let’s dive in.
Lots of news circling around Aqua (252 California Street, 415-956-9662) – for those who missed it, executive chef Laurent Manrique resigned. Here’s what he had to say on the matter: “The nearly three years of legal battles related to the ownership of Aqua that have been going on since shortly after the 2006 death of Charles Condy have come to make it impossible for me to effectively perform my job and maintain the high standards of my profession. I am very happy to have had the chance to help build what became a two-star Michelin restaurant and I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Charles Condy, a most distinguished restaurateur.”
The legal battle Manrique is referring to is between founder Charles Condy’s sons and their stepmother, Mary Condy, over ownership of the restaurant. Manrique will continue to stay involved with Cafe de la Presse and the adjacent Rouge et Blanc Wine Bar as a co-owner, and he remains a partner with Christopher Condy in CL Partners, a restaurant development company. Plans for the future include a new San Francisco restaurant-wine bar (of course I will keep you posted). As for chef Jason Pringle, who came over from Epic Roasthouse, he currently remains at Aqua.
In an interesting twist, Bacchus Management Group (Spruce, Village Pub, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, Pizza Antica) will be working to help sort out Aqua’s financial mess. From the release: “Bacchus Management Group, in request of the court, has been appointed by the administrator for the estate of Charles Condy, to work together with Aqua restaurant’s existing team to review their current financial and operational state and to assist in the rejuvenation and the management of the restaurant. Together the teams will work to revitalize one of San Francisco’s most iconic restaurants.”
Laurent Manrique has also departed from Fifth Floor (12 4th Street, 415-348-1555). Executive chef Jennie Lorenzo is leading a new concept, offering New American cuisine at a less expensive price point. I got a peek at the new menu, which includes chilled English pea soup with calamari a la plancha and spiced oil powder ($11); and mains like baked black cod with hearts of palm, sprouts and blossoms, sea urchin sauce, and fried brine shrimp ($25). The most expensive main is the rib eye “paillard” for $29, and the five-course tasting menu, now called “The Fifth Tasting,” for $65 (with pairings from master sommelier Emily Wines for $50). Jacques Bezuidenhout and wine director Emily Wines will also be developing the bar concept further (including a bar bites menu); look for an update on that soon.
Some of the biggest news was about chef Nate Appleman’s sudden departure from the A16/SPQR restaurants and group. He is moving to New York, now working with Keith McNally on Pulino Pizzeria, due to open in the Bowery in December. Back in S.F., Liza Shaw will continue to hold down the kitchen at A16 (2355 Chestnut Street, 415-771-2216) like she has been doing, so no changes there except she is now chef instead of co-chef. As for SPQR (1911 Fillmore Street, 415-771-7779), the new executive chef is Matthew Accarrino, starting this month. He was most recently chef of Craft Los Angeles and is an alum of New York’s Per Se and Italy’s Antonello Colonna. The restaurant is due to close on September 14 for renovations (including the addition of banquettes), and when it reopens in late September, Accarrino’s new SPQR menu will debut. As for Urbino, well, sadly that project in Dogpatch has been shelved at this time due to various issues relating to the lease and timing, but A16 Japan is still on track for an opening in Tokyo in September.
Just across the street from SPQR, Fraiche Yogurt (1910 Fillmore Street) from Palo Alto hopes to open in the other half of the space next to Woodhouse Fish Co. by the end of summer. You will be able to choose from house-made and organic fresh or frozen yogurt, and there’s hand-shaved Callebaut chocolate as a topping.
Also in Pacific Heights: It looks like some new folks will be taking over the Quince (1701 Octavia Street) location on Octavia when the Tusks move over to Pacific Avenue. According to liquor license permits, Lori Baker and her husband, Jeff Banker, are moving in, and the license says it’s called Brown Butter. It’s actually fitting because part of their extensive resume includes time at The Meetinghouse, which used to be at that location. Baker was also the pastry chef at Home restaurant for four years while Jeff Banker was the executive chef. They have worked all over S.F. for the last 10 years, including Postrio, Bix, Acme Chophouse, Gordon’s House of Fine Eats, Bizou, Fifth Floor, and Slow Club. I look forward to hearing what they have in store.
Who said big projects are over? Because this is big: Tyler Florence is taking over the Rubicon (558 Sacramento Street) space. According to his post, TyFlo writes: “It’s going to be called Wayfare Tavern. Modeled after the San Franciscan Bohemian culture of the late 1890s. We’ve got an amazing designer who instead of building the place up, will patina it down to look as if it has always been there … think American Balthazar! Shooting for Spring 2010, March or April.”
More American fare: Trademark (56 Belden Place, 415-397-8800) has opened in the former Voda space. This 85-seater is from Peter Snyderman of Elite Cafe and the Cafe Bastille/Plouf/B44 crew of Olivier Azancot and Eric Klein. It’s a contemporary American grill, with full liquor and custom cocktails, a 70-bottle wine list, and outdoor seating (heated, natch). The chef is the executive chef of The Elite Cafe, Jerry Mendoza. Dinner Monday–Saturday, lunch Monday–Friday, and open continuously during the afternoon hours.
The Pub
(851 Beach Street, 415-351-0500) has opened in the former O’Neill’s spot at Ghirardelli Square. Look for a Southern (and value-priced) menu with BBQ ribs, brisket, hot links, and chicken in a signature Southern style (saucier), plus Cajun-style numbers like jambalaya, dirty rice and corn bread. There are 60 seats inside (including large booths) and 24 outside on the heated outdoor patio with waterfront views. Validated parking is available at the Ghirardelli Square garage.
Lots of pizzeria openings: first, there’s Tony Gemignani’s Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (1570 Stockton Street, 415-835-9888) in the former La Felce/Lou’s space on Washington Square. There are four pizza ovens in use, plus a pizza school. Don’t miss the margherita ($18), which was the 2007 World Pizza Cup winner in Naples, Italy; it’s limited to 73 per day. There are a variety of pizzas, including calzone, stromboli, Sicilian pizza a teglia, and pastas; plus there’s a kid’s menu. The space has about 75 seats inside, sporting a New York-Milano classic pizza place look; a bit 1950s in style. The dining room is definitely family friendly, but there is also a full bar for those who want to hang out at the bar instead. Plus there’s outdoor seating!
The former Cinque Terre space has a new tenant: Pulcinella (641 Vallejo Street, 415-829-7312), a Neapolitan pizza place from Luigi Pucci, heir of Antico Molino Caputo (the preferred pizza flour). And the pizzaiolo is from a pizzeria in Naples, firing the pies in a Mugnaini oven.
And over in Cow Hollow, Pizzeria Avellino (2769 Lombard Street, 415-776-2500) has opened in the Curbside Taqueria location.
Folks in the Marina have probably noticed Bistro Aix (3340 Steiner Street, 415-202-0100) has closed, but fortunately, it’s just for a remodel, albeit a lengthy one since the reopening won’t happen until the end of the year. Owner Jonathan Beard plans to totally gut the place and redo it from the ground up – upon reopening, there will be an oak fireplace grill in the kitchen where they will prepare quality meat, poultry and fish. There will also be a glassed-in patio with a 100-year-old olive tree, reclaimed redwood, and an updated facade.
And now, some closures: Cortez (550 Geary Street) in the Hotel Adagio near Union Square and Pres A Vi (One Letterman Drive) in the Presidio have both been taken down by this challenging economy. And … scene.

Marcia Gagliardi also writes a popular weekly e-column about the S.F. dining scene; subscribe for free at  Additionally she writes for San Francisco magazine, Edible San Francisco, and the weekly San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau blog, Foodie 411. Got a hot tip? E-mail

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