Whoa. Huge news today over in North Beach. The group behind very popular New York City gastropubs The Spotted Pig, The Breslin, and The John Dory Oyster Bar, including Michelin-starred executive chef-partner April Bloomfield, have signed a ten-year lease to take over the Tosca Café (242 Columbus Avenue). As the Business Times is reporting, the group has swooped in following the much reported on kerfuffle last year between property owner Roger Forbes and prickly longtime Tosca Café owner Jeannette Etheredge, in which Etheredge allegedly owed over $100,000 in back rent.
It turns out that bar regular Sean Penn helped broker the deal, hoping to help Etheredge keep her job. Bloomfield tells the Chronicle that they'll be doing a small-plates menu, "with obviously an Italian twist," and they're hoping to keep as much of the place intact as they can. “We know it’s loved by the locals,” she says. “We want to keep that tradition.” (We'll just say that we hope they bring over Bloomfield's amazing chicken liver toasts.)
This is welcome news for the North Beach restaurant scene, certainly, given the success and big-name-draw of Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman. But this is likely to cause some sour grapes for some locals, too, who would prefer to see the 92-year-old Tosca remain the untouched, unembellished, handsome watering hole that it is. With the addition of a menu by Bloomfield, the new crowd it will draw, and some remodeling, things will definitely feel different in the place. And while Etheredge will no longer be employed there, they say they hope she'll stick around to be a "presence" in the bar, and she seems to have agreed.
Bloomfield, a native of Birmingham, England, and Friedman opened The Spotted Pig in 2004 to immediate acclaim, bringing British gastropub culture to New York for the first time. Just prior to the to that opening, Bloomfield actually spent a summer working here in the Bay Area at Chez Panisse, so she already has a bit of connection out here. Both The Spotted Pig and the subsequently opened Breslin Bar & Dining Room have maintained one Michelin star since not long after opening.
Bloomfield also just published a book last year, A Girl and Her Pig: Recipes and Stories.
The Tosca will be closing for renovations after the liquor license transfers, and the plan is to reopen within two months after that. So, likely by summer 2013, unless of course preservationists get involved. Then it's anybody's guess.
New York City group takes over San Francisco's Tosca Cafe [SF Business Times]
Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield are taking over San Francisco’s Tosca Cafe [Chron/Scoop]