At Locanda, Craig Stoll Wants to Make Like the Mission Is ‘Another Neighborhood in Rome’
San Francisco chef and restaurateur Craig Stoll is about to turn the page on a new chapter in his local mini-empire with the opening of Locanda (557 Valencia Street), currently slated for the end of March. "But you know how these things go," Stoll says. He's kind of old hat at this now, having opened two (soon to be three) locations of Pizzeria Delfina in addition to his home base on 18th Street over the past two decades. But in taking over the former Ramblas space on Valencia, which will include a full bar and the menu and vibe of a modern Roman osteria, Stoll and wife/partner Annie are poised to put their stamp on an even larger piece of the Mission. Stoll wants to be clear that he's not so much bringing Rome to the Mission, as the other way around. "It's like if the Mission were another neighborhood in Rome, that's how we want to look at our menu."
For those who don't know the specifics of Roman cuisine, think saltimbocca, carciofi alla Romana, pasta carbonara, and frequent appearances of black pepper, pecorino, artichokes, lamb, as well as guanciale, pancetta and lardo, all of which Stoll and chef de cuisine Anthony Strong will be curing in house. Strong, incidentally, spent two months staging in Italy last year in preparation for creating this menu.
There will be a section of the menu devoted to pizza bianca, but Stoll is quick to note, "It's not pizza. It's a Roman flatbread kind of like a focaccia, but crispier. It'll be topped and/or stuffed with things, like warm lardo, salsa verde, mortadella and arugula."
Also, there'll be a section of the menu marked Quinto Quarto, which translates "fifth quarter" or "offal," and Stoll promises things like oxtails, lamb brains, tripe, tongue, trotters, "all the good stuff." Individual items and preparations will come and go, with the menu changing frequently.
Pastas will all be made in-house, as they are at Delfina, and antipastis will change by the week and season.
They've just hired a wine director as well, Chris Wright, formerly of Aqua and the Village Pub who's been a manager at other Delfina properties for the last year. Wright will not only oversee the wine list at Locanda, but he'll be taking over that duty at the Stolls' other restaurants as well. As previously noted, Brian MacGregor (formerly of Jardinière) will be the cocktail maestro at the Delfina empire's first full-service bar.
As for the design, by Envelope Architecture+Design of Oakland, Stoll says, "It's going to look like a classic osteria but with clean, modern lines. One cool thing is we're putting in a coffered ceiling that undulates it's different-sized coffers, and the depth of each one differs, so it will deflect and absorb sound. And the ceiling kind of rolls from the front of the restaurant to the back." Sounds cool, right? Envelope A+D has done the design for all of the Stolls' restaurants, and principal Doug Burnham actually traveled to Naples with Stoll before designing Pizzeria Delfina on 18th Street.
The open kitchen from the Ramblas days will remain in the same spot, and also look for a new, large glass case for hanging the restaurant's house-cured salamis and other charcuterie, bordering the dining room.