After a year collecting accolades, San Francisco dining scene darling Che Fico is expanding downstairs with wine bar and market Che Fico Alimentari. The 60-seat restaurant and retail space opens next Tuesday, April 30.
Inspired by the team’s travels to Rome, the alimentari — Italian for grocery or market — aims to complement the upstairs restaurant with more space for diners (known to line up for Che Fico starting at 5 p.m.), an expanded wine selection, and to-go items like house-made salumi and bread.
“If you have fried caciocavallo with fig marmalata here, and say, ‘Why haven’t I been eating this all my life?” you can take some home and have it for breakfast tomorrow,” says chef David Nayfeld.
On the ground floor beneath upstairs Che Fico, the smaller, darker Alimentari space was previously home to the team’s short-lived diner and bakery, Theorita, which they hope to revive elsewhere. Che Fico Alimentari features a leaner, more casual Italian food menu than Che Fico proper, with an emphasis on pasta classics like cacio e pepe and rigatoni amatriciana. Those are made with imported pastas from Italy’s Pastaficio Gentile, also available for retail purchase.
With a smaller food menu around which to structure pairings, the new venture is also a playground for Che Fico wine director Francesca Maniace (previously of SF’s A16 and NYC’s Marea). “Down here, I feel like I can put my bag down a little, and spread out,” says Maniace. She’s stocked more than 200 selections from most of Italy’s 20 regions, with affordable options alongside one-off celebratory bottles.
“I don’t view wine as a trophy item,” Maniace says — instead, it’s a grocery staple, or part of a balanced meal. Diners will find about 14 wines by the glass and quartino, and retail customers can purchase wine to-go starting this summer, once permitting goes though.
When the Che Fico team elected to close Theorita, fans of pie from decorated pasty chef Angela Pinkerton took the news hard. There’s consolation for them at Che Fico Alimentari, where Pinkerton remains a partner along with Nayfeld and Che Fico’s Matt Brewer. Her dolce menu includes cannoli with house-made ricotta, gelati (like honeyed labneh), sorbetti (like orange hibiscus), and profiteroles (with hazelnut gelato, brittle, lemon crema, and chocolate sauce poured table-side.) Sweets to-go and for catering include tiramisu by the sheet tray full.
After Theorita, Pinkerton also began delving into bread baking, a new skill fo the chef (but one Nayfeld asserts she’s already mastered). Her fresh sourdough, focaccia, and ciabatta, made with stone-milled Cairnspring flour, are available to take home, too.
Jon de la Cruz of DLC ID designed the new downstairs Alimentari, whose aesthetic is an extension of his chic, heavily Instagrammable work upstairs (see: fig wallpaper). The downstairs color palette is a shade moodier: It’s a wine-dark cellar for lounging and shopping among Maniace’s bottles, boxes of pastas, and hanging cured meats. The salumi theme continues onto a front wall, whose wallpaper appears floral at first blush, but is, upon closer inspection, much meatier.
Starting April 30, Che Fico Alimentari is open for dinner Tuesday to Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
Alimentari Dinner Opening by Caleb Pershan on Scribd
Alimentari Dessert Opening by on Scribd
Alimentari Wine Opening by Caleb Pershan on Scribd