Hillside Supper Club, as we learned last month, is making its full-time, brick-and-mortar debut next week after being a pop-up in the same location (300 Precita Avenue) for the last year. The space has been known as Caffe Cozzolino for about fifteen years, and the owners of that business decided to turn over the reins to up-and-coming chefs Jonathan Sutton and Tony Ferrari, who have long dreamed of opening their own place after years working the lines at Acquerello, Michael Mina, and Jean-George Vongerichten's J&G; Steakhouse in D.C., between them, as well as numerous stints in European kitchens. "We're extremely excited," Ferrari tells us. "And the community of Bernal Heights has just been the most amazing place to open a restaurant. It's like a little village, and everyone's been so supportive."
As a team, Sutton and Ferrari began as Bernal Supper Club with third partner Miles Carnahan. Carnahan continues to do small, underground dinners using the name, and so, for the restaurant, Sutton and Ferrari decided to name it for the hillside on which the place sits, on a prime corner across from Precita Park.
The menu is casual, seasonal, Italian-influenced California fare, and part of the formula for their success so far has been a three-course prix fixe for $32, with à la carte options as well. They'll be expanding a bit, with eight appetizers and four entrées available each night, as well as a specials board.
Grub Street spoke today with Ferrari, who's eagerly preparing for next week's opening. (Reservations begin January 24, after an opening event on the 23rd, and you can make them here.) He says that his and Sutton's influences come in part from each of their strong Italian backgrounds. Ferrari, from Cincinnati, grew up learning cooking from an Italian grandmother, and he spent time in Italy learning about bread-making and pasta from other Italian "grandmothers." He also cooked with Michelin-starred chef Renato Rizzardi in Italy, and here in S.F. at Acquerello, and the Velvet Room at the Clift.
Sutton grew up on Lopez Island in Puget Sound, where his mother had a huge garden and kept animals as well, and got into food from a young age. He went on to work for chefs like Christian Delouvrier (formerly of Lespinasse), Philippe Boulot, Michael Mina, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
"We cook stuff we like to eat," says Ferrari. "Fresh, local ingredients. We want to be a cool, neighborhood restaurant, with good food, and a sense of community." He adds that both he and Sutton admire Nopa and Starbelly as warm, inviting, casual places that they like to hang out.
"We're not in this business to make a lot of money or shoot for Michelin stars," he says. "We've both traveled all over and worked our asses off for various chefs. But we're in this to feed people, and make delicious things, and see people's reactions to our food."
Hillside Supper Club - 300 Precita Avenue at Folsom - Opening January 24 for dinner. Regular hours TBA.
Earlier: 31 New Restaurants and Bars to Look Forward to This Winter and Spring