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The Gatekeepers: Margot Bloch, Bar Bambino

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This is The Gatekeepers, where Eater roams the city to meet the fine men and women standing between you and some of your favorite dining destinations.
Jennifer Yin, 8/15/08

It's hard not to like Bar Bambino. The chic restaurant/wine bar opened last year in a tiny space on a rough block of 16th Street, and almost from the start, BB has been a smash hit. Inside, seating is limited to a handful tables, the bar, and a communal table, but for our dime, the money seats are on the patio. As you can imagine, the place fills up quickly on most nights, and navigating the "people puzzle" for the front of house is Margot Bloch.

Margot Bloch, Hostess at Bar Bambino: There are a total of 70 seats in the restaurant, 47 inside and 23 on our patio. My favorite seats in the restaurant are the ones on the patio for small groups, and at our back communal table for large groups. The back communal table is semi-private and right off the patio. It’s the perfect table for a fun party. 8 PM on a Saturday night. What’s the wait for a table? It really depends on where you’d like to sit. For a seat at the dining bar there is usually a 20 to 30 minute wait. For a table inside the restaurant or on our patio, the average wait is generally 45 minutes to an hour.

Is there anything I can say to make my wait shorter? Say, “I have a reservation.” and mean it. Otherwise, be flexible on where you’d like to sit. Our bar seats and communal tables open up more frequently than our tables. If you have a larger party or really want a private table, I suggest having a glass or two of one of our beautiful wines, or chatting up one of our super friendly –– and very cute –– cheese mongers whose station sits directly across from the area where we have people wait. Ever been offered gifts or cash? People have offered me cash and to take me out on a date.

Tell us about your favorite customers. Any celebs been by recently? Our favorite guests are the ones who just absolutely love their dining experience, as well as all of our fabulous regulars. We’ve had quite a few local culinary stars and celebrities who have dined in the restaurant. I think we saw Elvis last week. How do you deal with VIPs, when there are no tables left to give? We keep a few tables open every evening for walk-in’s and VIPs. If every table is full we do a great job of making sure everyone gets a drink and has fun while hanging out for a table....the owner’s friends? Everyone thinks they’re Christopher’s friend.

What’s the most outrageous request from a customer you’ve had to accommodate? We once had a party of 14 that called to tell us they were running late, and that their party had grown to 27. It was a little chaotic at first, but we definitely made it work and everyone had a great time. ...that you couldn’t accommodate? Finding space for a party of 15 on a Friday or Saturday night.

What’s your favorite dish at Bar Bambino? What's the most popular? Our menu changes frequently, but my favorite dish of the moment is our tagliatelle with ragu alla Bolognese. As for the most popular dish of the moment, I would have to say it’s our Fiori di zucca - squash blossoms stuffed with sheep’s milk ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano, and lightly fried. YUMMY! Where are you eating when you're not here? Redbox Sushi and Nopa

The restaurant is now about a year old. What kind of changes have been made in the last 12 months or so? We just installed these really beautiful concrete tiles on our patio. It looks gorgeous and women’s heels no longer get stuck in the sandbox!

What’s the one Gatekeeper tool you need to do your job? Lots of espresso.

Bar Bambino

2931 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103