Opened in 1989 by Francesco and Giuseppina Nozzolino, Ristorante Franchino has existed as a go-to for authentic Italian fare in the city for well over three decades. But, in light of COVID-19 and an unwillingness to move to takeout only, the North Beach institution will shutter after this month.
Dozens upon dozens of SF restaurants and bars have either temporarily boarded up or, unfortunately, closed for good amid the pandemic. By the time we're on the other side of this — whenever that is — San Francisco’s dining landscape will be forever changed. For those that survive, servers with masks and temperature checking stations may well evolve into new standards. But one of SF’s admired Italian restos won't be around to see these shifts in motion; 32-year-old Ristorante Franchino will call it quits once their lease ends June 1.
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To our amazing patrons who have become our family and friends - thank you for an amazing 32 years. You will always hold a place at the table with us. Eat. Drink. Laugh. But most importantly do these things as often as you can with those you love. Canta Ancora Amici. xoxo Franchino’s
“It’s the closing of a chapter for now," Maria Nozzolino, daughter of Francesco and Giuseppina Nozzolino, said to the Chronicle. Maria added that Ristorante Franchino — known for one of the best gnocchi della casas anywhere in SF's Little Italy — was founded on the idea of "inviting people into [their] home for a meal." So, the notion of offering dishes solely for pick up or delivery never sat well with them: “It didn’t feel like we could do that in the new normal.”
“My mom had this thing with takeout," she continued. "She preferred people to sit down and enjoy their meals.”
Even if they could weather this storm and eventually open their doors again, Maria and her family believe city and state laws would make it almost impossible for them to become profitable. For this reason, as well as not securing an agreement with their landlord on an extension, Maria and clan deemed it’s best to close the business.
“Given the economic uncertainty we’re facing now, you don’t know if you’re going to be profitable," Maria said, the Chronicle's Janelle Biticker also noting that limiting restaurant capacities to 50 percent — a feasible precautionary measure once SF begins reopening — would leave 15 or fewer seats in Ristorante Franchino: "You don’t know what it’s going to look like to reopen. It’s hard for small businesses to take that risk.”
Ristorante Franchino's imminent closing supports estimates that some 50 percent or more of San Francisco's bars and restaurants might close due to the pandemic. Though Proposition D — the City’s now passed vacancy tax, which charges owners of chronically empty SF storefronts hundreds of dollars per linear foot, annually — offers hope of more affordable leases coming on the market, it's still not enough for struggling small businesses to keep their heads above water. Especially right now; they're drowning.
If you're in the position to do so, consider ordering to-go grub and libations from local restos and bars. Feel free to go the extra mile, and give some digital dollars to any of these active GoFundMe fundraisers in support of an SF saloon or eatery.
Image: Instagram via @franchinosf