Chef Anthony Strong, who might have had a hit on his hands with Prairie in the Mission District if it weren't for a certain pandemic, has never been one to stay idle for too long. And we now have word of his next project, which is launching as soon as next month.
A decade ago, Strong cut his teeth at Pizzeria Delfina before becoming opening chef at Locanda — a job that entailed a research trip to Rome to study Roman pasta styles. Now, as Tablehopper reports, Strong is getting back into the pasta game full time, opening up a combination pasta market, factory, and restaurant, with the retail portion opening first, sometime in January 2023.
Tablehopper notes how Strong was nicknamed "the nonna whisperer" on earlier travels in Italy, "for his ability to get invited to many nonna [grandmother] kitchens in Italy to watch and learn how they made their specialty pastas." He did some of that again earlier this year on another trip to Italy, and now he's planning this as-yet-unnamed pasta-centric business in a former furniture-repair-shop space at 3rd and Clement (236 Clement Street), in the Inner Richmond.
The idea is to offer fresh and air-dried pastas for home cooks, as well as sauces and pantry staples — like he did in the latter days of Prairie, in the early pandemic. He's planning to offer around 20 pasta shapes, including vegan and gluten-free varieties. And then later, he'll be doing dinner service with about 40 seats, with a few pastas offered each night, as well as wine.
The hybrid retail/restaurant concept is fitting for Strong, a talented chef who has been trying to innovate in a changing restaurant landscape for a few years now, even before the pandemic. Prior to landing the former Hog & Rocks space to open Prairie in 2018, Strong tried his hand at a high-end delivery-only concept called Young Fava, which collapsed under the weight of high demand after just about a month in mid-2017.
He pivoted to a pop-up series later that year called Cibi Cotti (literally "cooked food"), and honed dish ideas that later appeared at Prairie, including a number of pastas.
In early 2020, Prairie itself pivoted, jettisoning some pastas to do more live-fire grilling and launching the Campfire Room, going in more of a prix fixe direction. But seeing as that launched in early March 2020, it was very short-lived, and Strong would soon be pivoting to the "general store" idea that he ran out of Prairie's front room — he even sold toilet paper! — for the first five months of the pandemic, before calling it quits.
By early 2021, he'd be doing "glamping"-style outdoor catered dinners out of camper van, called the SuperStella Van, and those quickly sold out.
We should all be glad that Strong is getting back into the pasta business, and fans of his caccio e pepe and amatriciana from the Locanda days might finally get to have some again.
Details about the opening stages and the name — and when dinner might be happening — are still to come. But those in the Inner Richmond can keep an eye out for the retail shop to open at 236 Clement as soon as construction is complete.
Top image: Anthony Strong with Yayoi Kusama's giant pumpkin sculpture on the Japanese island of Naoshima, which was recently reinstalled after being washed away in a typhoon last year, via Instagram.