Boulevard chef Nancy Oakes and Marlowe/Park Tavern restaurateur Anna Weinberg are joining forces to reimagine Tosca Cafe as something in between the legendary dive bar it once was and the polished culinary destination it became.
It's big news for Tosca, which we just learned two weeks ago had abruptly closed under the ownership of celebrity chef April Bloomfield. Bloomfield made her name in New York at The Spotted Pig alongside partner Ken Friedman, whose sexual harassment and misconduct allegations likely played a role in hurting Tosca's business over the last year and a half. In 2013, she and Friedman "saved" Tosca after former owner Jeannette Etheredge was about to be evicted — a deal that was partly brokered by actor Sean Penn, who was a longtime regular. Bloomfield's Italian-focused menu earned the place a spot on Bon Appetit's Best New Restaurants list the following year, and for several years thereafter tables were hard to come by.
Now, as the Chronicle reports, the powerhouse team of Oakes (a James Beard Award winner), Weinberg, and designer Ken Fulk are stepping in to save Tosca once again, with Oakes taking charge of reimagining the Italian concept, Weinberg handling operations, and Fulk polishing up the design. The name Tosca shall remain.
Oakes tells the paper that she grew up in North Beach, and she wants to revive the old spirit of the place as much as possible. For the food, she is thinking "simple and flavorful," with nightly changing specials, and dishes like rabbit cacciatore, Dungeness crab cioppino and artichoke stuffed with shrimp and lemon mayonnaise. A chef de cuisine is yet to be hired who will be running the kitchen day to day.
The team is aiming for a winter re-opening, but say it could happen sooner. Also in the works will be a to-be-announced new concept for the former Lusty Lady space behind Tosca, which Bloomfield and Friedman had once planned to turn into a separate cocktail lounge but never did.
The Chronicle hints that the future is shaky for Boulevard, Oakes' nearly 30-year-old flagship restaurant, with a new lease just recently signed — and that uncertainty pushed Oakes to pursue this project. Her last new restaurant, opened with partners Pam Mazzola and Kathy King, was Prospect in 2010.
And this is a breakout project for Weinberg, who is partnering in this outside of her Big Night Restaurant Group, which includes Marlowe, Park Tavern, The Cavalier, Leo's Oyster Bar, Petit Marlowe, and the now closed Cow Marlowe, which is pivoting to become something new called Greenwich.
New details will undoubtedly be emerging in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Photo: Jeremy Brooks