Che Fico will replace its diner-inspired downstairs offshoot, Theorita, with a retail and restaurant extension of itself, Che Fico Alimentari. Partners Matt Brewer, chef David Nayfeld, and pastry chef Angela Pinkerton will open the new Italian grocery and eatery in April.
At 834 Divisadero, right below its second-story sibling Che Fico, Che Fico Alimentri will capitalize on the team’s Cal-Italian strengths and runaway success. Shelves and cases will hold house-made salumi, breads, and pastries, plus a vast selection of Italian wines, imported cheeses, pastas, and olive oils. They’re all for the kitchen to use for dine-in customers or for shoppers to buy to go.
“You can sit in the restaurant and dine, but then you can also come up and grab a half a pound of prosciutto, and like six cannolis and two gelato, and walk out the door and go home,” Pinkerton explains. The newly remodeled space, with darker hues and wood floors, holds seating for 60, with 24 spaces reserved for walk-ins.
“Che Fico has such a large, broad story that we’d hate for it to end at the door [to the upstairs restaurant],” says Pinkerton. “For it to spread out into this other space, in the same building, it just makes sense.”
Theorita, the team’s previous effort in the space, won fans for diner-style fare inspired by Pinkerton’s Midwestern upbringing. But the business wasn’t sustainable, Nayfeld, Brewer, and Pinkerton quickly determined.
“People were super into the pie... the burger, the fried chicken sandwich, the english muffin. But when it came to the roast chicken dinner, not so much,” Nayfeld says. With slow sales for big ticket items and high costs for the all-day business, the team pulled the plug on their joint project after just four months. They hope to reopen Theorita in a new space.
Pinkerton will still flex her muscles at Che Fico Alimentari (where she remains a full partner) serving pastries, sorbetto, gelato, and bread to-go: Think ciabatta, focaccia, and sourdough, with which she’s been experimenting upstairs. Dine-in desserts will be a focus, too, with classics like Napoleons and profiteroles well-represented. One profiterole will include hazelnut gelato, lemon cream inside the pastry puff shell, hazelnut brittle, and a hot chocolate sauce poured tableside.
Nayfeld’s savory menu downstairs will be even more traditionally Italian than upstairs, with prepared antipasti, classic pasta dishes using dried pasta (carbonara, cacio e pepe, amatriciana), and a small selection of larger secondi dishes.
“The world has taken dried pasta for granted,” he says, partly thanks to restaurant marketing. But Che Fico Alimentari will show it off, using and selling products from the likes of Pastificio Gentile, a family-run operation the team visited in Gragnano, Italy.
Another major focus will be Italian wine from wine director Francesca Maniace. She’ll offer wines by the glass, larger quartino pours, and when a retail license arrives this summer, bottles to go including Che Fico’s own imports.
“While there’s a lot of great restaurants [on Divisadero,] there’s very few wine bars, and very few Italian wine bars,“ Brewer says.
With accolades in its first year from Esquire to Bon Appétit, Che Fico has been one of the city’s most sought-after reservations. And while walk-ins make up about half the tables, lines to claim them often form all the way down the stairs.
“We’re constantly turning people away, and we don’t have enough space for the larger parties,” explains Brewer. For Che Fico Alimentari, the thought was, “why don’t we create a little more accessibility to the brand?,” with more space for larger parties, private events, and catering, too.
Finally, Che Fico Alimentari offers the team a new opportunity to keep its momentum going. “If we stand still from what we did in the first year, then we’ll have completely undershot what our potential should be,” says Nayfeld. “Right now our main philosophy is living up to [and] earning the nice things that have been said about us.”