In a sign that the market for new restaurants in San Francisco may not be as ravenous as it was a few years back, a high-end seafood restaurant that opened last summer on Valencia Street is already calling it quits.
Ancora debuted in July in the former Locanda space at 557 Valencia Street — a well-appointed space that had sat dark for over two years since Locanda became one of the pandemic first casualties among SF restaurants. Promising fresh ocean-to-table, local and sustainable seafood, the restaurant offered raw bar items, creative appetizers like an anchovy pan con tomate and a nasturtium dolma with “Burgundian escargot flavors,” per Eater, as well as a $125 tasting menu option from chef Nick Anichini, a former chef de cuisine at Michelin three-starred Atelier Crenn.
And now, as the Chronicle reports, barely eight months in, co-owner Joe Conte abruptly closed the restaurant, saying that perhaps it was too high-end or just not the right concept for the neighborhood.
Yes, there was a $65, presumably shareable halibut rack on the menu, and an $80 pig head entree at some point. But there were also $4 oysters and a $17 crudo, which is pretty much in line with pricing elsewhere.
There was, probably, a lack of sustained attention in the local media or even a formal review in the Chronicle for what, in earlier times, would have been a high-profile opening worthy of a timely review. As we know, Chronicle critic Soleil Ho is now stepping down from the job after just four years, and with a pandemic occupying the majority of Ho's tenure, there wasn't the same urgency at play in terms of making three visits to every new or notable spot in the first couple months and getting a review out.
It may also have just been a bad time to open a restaurant like Ancora, in the summer of 2022 when life was just barely back to feeling fully normal. Conte tells the Chronicle, "The restaurants doing well stayed relevant all through COVID, and they’ve built up years and years of being institutions in the city. That takes time, and it takes money. We just didn’t have the resources to do that."
Conte and his wife Andi founded sustainable seafood distributor Water2Table a decade ago, and in Ancora, he attempted to create a direct line between fishermen and chef at his own restaurant showcase for the seafood. But it sounds like the restaurant, without enough traffic through it — Conte added that our stormy January was especially rough.
Anyway, it's tough out there for new restaurants! If you have one you like, do your part, spread the word.