We heard earlier this year about star chef Jonathan Waxman's plans to open his first San Francisco venture, originally slated for the fall, in Ghirardelli Square. As it goes with these things, it's been delayed, and now Hoodline reports that Waxman and his partners are shooting for an early 2016 debut for a second iteration of Waxman's recently opened Atlanta concept Brezza Cucina, this time dubbed Brezza Emporio and Pizzeria.
Waxman is actually a Californian at heart and grew up in Berkeley before cutting his teeth at Chez Panisse (where he replaced Jeremiah Tower in the kitchen, briefly) and the famed Michael's in Santa Monica in the late 70s and early 1980s. He went on to open Jams and the now highly acclaimed Barbuto in New York, where he's been praised everywhere including New York Magazine for his "casually hip" take on Italian cuisine, and his roast chicken. (Incidentally, Barbuto is also where local restaurateur Anna Weinberg of Marlowe and Park Tavern trained in the restaurant business, as the restaurant's manager in the last decade.) As of this past spring, following the sale of Barbuto's building, Waxman was telling Grub Street that he expected to be given "the boot" within a year, though no announcement has been made about that.
In 2010 he appeared on the second season of Top Chef Masters where he was nicknamed the "Jedi" chef for his extraordinary calm under pressure, and the magic he produced, food-wise, with seemingly little effort.
Rumors about Waxman expanding his brand have been ongoing ever since, but we're finally seeing it now, and people should get excited for Brezza's upcoming debut in SF.
The menu at the Atlanta spot features several simple pizzas, antipasti like grilled Spanish octopus with fermented chili, yogurt and mint; a risotto with Gulf shrimp; and his famed JW Chicken with salsa verde.
As Waxman told Michael Bauer back in June, he was anxious about trying to replicate the success of Barbuto, saying, "It’s such an iconic location. How can you duplicate it? It’s difficult to have lightning strike twice so I struggle with that process."
But in some spirit, at least via some menu items, that appears to be what he's doing with Brezza which in SF may also have a cafe component attached.
Waxman also this year rebooted his first New York restaurant, Jams, originally opened in 1984, inside the new 1 Hotel Central Park. Marking one of the first moments when California Cuisine, with all its mesquite grilling and seasonal vegetables, was introduced to East Coast foodinistas, Jams was a heavily buzzed-about icon in its day where Andy Warhol ate twice a week. But the rebooted Jams, at least according to New York Times critic Pete Wells, is predictably just a shadow of the original decent but "stiff in the joints and short on joie de vivre."
Let's hope for better when Waxman makes his California homecoming at long last.