While most of the restaurant news of the last four months has been about closings and pivots to takeout, there have been a few new restaurant projects proceeding hopefully through this pandemic storm, cautiously optimistic that they will emerge out the other side of it. And all of them are Italian.
You've already likely heard about Tosca Cafe 3.0 and its initial dry run as a takeout business and current incarnation as an outdoor pop-up in SoMa. The Italian stylings of star chef Nancy Oakes are being served four nights a week (Thursday to Sunday) in the parking lot of the former St. Joseph's Church, now the St. Joseph's Art Society, at 10th and Howard — thanks to new partner in the Tosca revamp Ken Fulk, who's a co-owner of St. Joseph's. Marlowe/Park Tavern restaurateur Anna Weinberg told the Chronicle last month that they made the decision to do a full sit-down, outdoor experience in a different location, rather than try to do anything on the crowded sidewalk outside Tosca in North Beach — pending being able to open for indoor dining, maybe later this year.
Another new Italian spot, Roma's — named for famed SF drag queen and Sister of Perpetual Indulgence Sister Roma — had its ribbon-cutting and grand opening on Saturday at 489 Third Street (the former La Briciola space). Owner Matt Leum had been planning the restaurant since before the lockdowns began, and while he had hoped to be able to open with some indoor tables this month, the opening happened Saturday as an "Italian market" with takeout and delivery only (via this link or phone at 415-512-0300).
The menu at Roma's features pantry items like dried pastas, spreads and tapenades, canned fish, vinegar, salami, wine, and gelato, as well as a bunch of prepared items like sandwiches, salads, and pasta like a seafood risotto and a squid ink pappardelle.
Meanwhile over at the iconic former Jardiniere space in Civic Center, new vegan Italian spot Baia just opened on Saturday as a delivery-only restaurant. We first heard about the project back in May 2019, and it's the latest part of a vegan restaurant empire from LA-based chef Matthew Kenney — being bankrolled by Tracy Vogt and her husband, local self-driving car entrepreneur Kyle Vogt. The restaurant is serving things like garlic knots, pizza, faux meatballs, and vegan versions of lasagne Bolognese and cacio e pepe.
Kenney tells Eater that he wishes San Francisco could get to see the revamp of the former Jardiniere dining room, saying that it and the new kitchen are "really, really beautiful." But Kenney himself hasn't even been up to San Francisco to see it yet, due to pandemic travel restrictions.
In addition to the Baia menu, which can be ordered for delivery here between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m., the team has also started a vegan sushi pop-up in the space called Woodblock Sushi, the menu for which can be ordered from here.