The Flour + Water Hospitality Group (formerly known as Ne Timeas Restaurant Group) is debuting a new rustic Italian restaurant next month, and it will be taking over the space that's been occupied by Central Kitchen for the last nine years.
After the trauma of 2020, all the shuttered restaurants struggling to reopen, and all the delayed and muted restaurant openings that followed, there hasn't been the usual wave of restaurant news that typically comes in the latter third of the year. But this week we're learning of changes over Flour + Water and its affiliated restaurants, as chef-owners Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow say they're looking to reinvent and go even more rustic and approachable with their latest venture.
"We could have reopened Central Kitchen and it would have been totally fine, but [we thought] let’s do something that really excites us," McNaughton tells the Chronicle.
That something is Penny Roma, which is aiming for a mid-October opening at the indoor-outdoor, open-kitchen space that was Central Kitchen (3000 20th Street at Florida). The plan is to offer a range of rustic pasta dishes from all over Italy, including agnolotti dal plin and a tagliatelle Bolognese, as well as a fire-grilled steak, and antipasti-style vegetable dishes.
Central Kitchen had originally debuted in 2012 as a more formal and refined sister restaurant to Flour + Water down the street, with Salumeria opening simultaneously next door as a casual, more daytime concept. During the pandemic, the Salumeria space transformed into the successful takeout operation called Flour + Water Pasta Shop, serving hot and cold sandwiches, salads, and snacks during the day, and take-out pasta kits for preparing at home.
Central Kitchen, meanwhile, reopened briefly last fall as a wine bar with hearty snacks, but has been dark since the December shutdowns.
"Covid allowed us to step back and reanalyze every single thing we’re doing," McNaughton tells the Chronicle. "At Penny Roma, we want to throw a dinner party every night."
The flagship operation, Flour + Water, is also going to temporarily close for a "major" remodel on October 2, and there seem to be plans to make some menu changes there as well, though that is not clear. McNaughton and Pollnow say they're looking to serve the neighborhood in more approachable and affordable ways — and that will also include turning Salumeria/Flour + Water Pasta Shop into a counter-service wine bar with snacks.
After the remodel, McNaughton tells SFist, Flour + Water "will not look like the same restaurant."
Flour + Water Pizzeria is still going strong on Valencia, after its 2019 debut, and that's where you'll find more Italian American fare alongside its pizzas, like meatballs and mozzarella sticks — but that operates independently from this restaurant group.
As for the group change to Flour + Water Hospitality Group, McNaughton explains that one main difference is the elevation of Pollnow to co-chef of the whole group along with him. But the change, McNaughton says, represent "new beginnings in a lot of ways," and it's about "us analyzing every aspect of who we want to be as a company."
As the new group website says, "In all we do, we strive to create a meaningful impact on our community – not just in how we treat our team but also in how we work with our purveyors, neighbors and the hospitality industry."
In years past, McNaughton was a partner in Ne Timeas Restaurant Group along with financier David Steele and restaurateur David White, and the group had several years ago expanded to Market Street in the Castro with Café du Nord and Aatxe, in the Swedish American Hall space. Both of those ventures ended in 2017, but Central Kitchen chef Ryan Pollnow was brought on as partner as well. The Flour + Water Hospitality Group includes McNaughton, Steele, Pollnow, Kara Bratcher, and Vanya Shekell, and the group is also partnered with next-door cocktail bar Trick Dog as well (most recently operating as Quik Dog).
Stay tuned for more details on Penny Roma as we get them.