Native Florentine Claudio Villani has already established one enticing neighborhood wine bar with Cole Valley’s InoVino, and hopes to do the same with a second this month, AltoVino, in Nob HIll. Befitting the nearly alpine heights of the new location, the former Mason Pacific space (1358 Mason) that’s romantically situated near the top of a cable car line, Villani will highlight high-altitude Italian alpine and volcanic (or alto) wines. Starting Thursday, March 15th, expect 30 wines by the glass and half glass to go with a seasonally and regionally rotating menu of Italian food from chef Nick Kelly (Inovino, Barbacco, Perbacco).
At opening, Kelly’s winter menu (below) will focus on Northern Italian food, where “richer, heartier” flavors reign. From there, he’ll be “working down the coast” into spring and summer, cooking with mostly olive oil rather than cream and butter. After Kelly left his post as chef de cuisine at Barbacco and before he joined Inovino, the Napa-raised chef staged in kitchens across Italy, starting in the city of Bolzano — so far North that German was spoken in the kitchens, as Kelly, who had been brushing up on his Italian, was surprised to learn.
For AltoVino, Villani has renovated the Mason Pacific space, which boasts a much larger kitchen than the petite InoVino. Kelly has oven space for fish and other entrees and ample room for fresh pasta making — to start, there’s lemon tagliatelle, chestnut pappardelle, and cappelletti filled with roasted winter squash.
When it opens, AltoVino will serve dinner six nights a week starting at 5:30, while the restaurant and wine bar will open at 5 for stuzzichino (snacks) and aperitivos at the bar and on cafe-style sidewalk tables.