We had hoped to include Pesce, an Italian tapas-style restaurant and neighborhood favorite, in an upcoming story about San Francisco cioppino. It turns out Pesce won’t survive the month: After 15 years, the seafood restaurant will serve its final calamari this Sunday, September 13th. Here, a few thoughts that the news inspired.
1. Why is it closing so fast? Chef Ruggero Gadaldi says it’s because the new space (see #2) “affected the concept’s integrity.” Read into that what you will. The SFist reports that the building has already been sold. After Pesce’s swan song, fans of Gadaldi’s cooking can visit other arms of the Adriano Paganini restaurant empire (of which Pesce was a part), Beretta or the forthcoming downtown location of Delarosa.
2. We’ll miss that goldfish mural. Pesce’s most recent incarnation featured sophisticated, minimalist decor with a light nautical flavor—think a zinc bar top and rustic walnut paneling. Venitian-inspired small plates were listed on a chalkboard and always paired well with a pitcher (yes, pitcher) of “The Revival,” Pesce’s sangria-like take on a classic Corpse Reviver #2. It managed to maintain a balance between innovative and traditional, even after it moved from Russian Hill into bigger, trendier digs in the Castro district. And, even better, it’s one of those rare restaurants that managed to be a neighborhood favorite, no matter which neighborhood it lived in.
3. It’s gonna leave a big hole in the cioppino landscape. Pesce was a go-to for that ultimate San Francisco classic, cioppino. Gadaldi incorporated his own tweaks—a little saffron here, a little basil there—but he understood the importance of San Francisco’s Italian-American history. “You can introduce your cicheti [Venetian tapas], your octopus, your grilled squid, but people also want something that’s part of the city’s culture. We’ve seen these classic dishes go, but they always return. It’s hard to erase so many years of history.”
4. How can I make this cioppino at home? If you can’t make it to Pesce’s final days, you can always recreate a little bit of San Francisco culture in your own kitchen with this recipe from Chef Gadaldi.
Yield: 6 portions
¼ cup olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
4 cups fish/shellfish stock
1 12 oz. can chopped tomatoes
a pinch saffron
a pinch chili flakes
Salt and white pepper to taste
18 individual clams
18 individuals black mussels
1 garlic clove cleaned and halved
6 slices country bread
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
1 ½ Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley, divided
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
12 large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 lb. Cod, diced into 1″ cubes
3 oz. fresh Dungeness crab meat, cooked
2 Tbsp. chopped basil
Using an 8 qt. saucepan, heat olive oil. Add diced onion, garlic, and green and red peppers, stir occasionally for approximately five (5) minutes to slightly soften the vegetables. Stir in fish/shellfish stock, tomato, saffron, chili flakes, and salt and white pepper (to preference). Bring to initial boil and then lower to simmer for 30 minutes.
Place clams and mussels in a bowl and rinse under running water for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Gently rub garlic clove on one side of the country bread and brush lightly with olive oil – toast or grill to preference. Once warmed, add a sprinkle of Parmesan, a pinch of fresh chopped parsley and if desired, a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.
Once the base is ready, add clams, mussels, prawns and cod. Bring to boil and cook for three (3) minutes or until the clams and mussels open. Stir in basil and parsley.
Divide Cioppino in six (6) bowls, topping each dish with a spoonful of fresh Dungeness crab meat. Place a slice of the country bread to the side and serve immediately.