Sfizio, the popular pasta pop-up that’s been moving through Oakland and Oakland since 2020, has finally landed a permanent home: Chef Matt Solimano is set to bring Sfizio to Rockridge, taking over the Noodle Theory space and throwing open the doors in spring 2023.
Solimano kicked around the idea for an affordable pasta restaurant for years, inspired by chef Mike Easton’s Il Corvo in Seattle. Moving to the Bay Area eight years ago, he recounted those ideas over beers with friends, and when the pandemic hit he made the move to test them out as a pop-up. He brought his brand of fresh pasta to Way Station Brew, Ramen Shop, Degrees Plato, and other spots, slowly building a following around dishes that often commanded prices lower than $15 — something almost unheard of in the Bay Area. “As I started cooking more and making pastas at certain restaurants, I fell more in love with the idea of actually making pasta,” Solimano says. “And I really enjoyed the idea of it having good enough margins that we could be selling this affordably and at a significantly lower price than most places are.”
Now, he’s looking to continue in the same spirit. The restaurant menu will be similar to the pop-up menu — the meatballs will be back for sure, he promises — comprised of three starters, three pastas, and dessert. Diners can expect the menu to rotate on a frequent basis and be close in price point to what pop-up customers are used to. Dishes will incorporate seasonal ingredients and Solimano plans to bring back favorites from his time doing pop-ups, such as grilled eggplant and Jimmy Nardello peppers in late summer and broccolini with salsa negra in the winter. There are also plans to continue experimenting with new pasta dishes, such as a gluten-free option and a vegetarian take on those meatballs. But having done the pop-up for two years, Solimano has been getting a feel for the dishes that resonate with customers each season. “It’s been nice to think about dishes in terms of, ‘Oh man, I can’t wait until eggplant and pepper season comes around,’” Solimano says. “I was so excited to put that dish back on, and there’s so many people that were so excited for it, so that was like a fun little thing to look forward to.”
The major change Sfizio pop-up followers will notice, Solimano says, will be the addition of beers and wines, as well as some vermouth cocktails. The restaurant will be counter service, although Solimano said the Sfizio group jokes it will be “as non-counter service, counter service as possible” meaning they’re aiming to give wonderful service at the counter, with bussers to bring dishes out and refill waters, and real plates and silverware to dine on, not to-go containers. “A proper sit-down experience, but also streamlined a little bit,” he says.
Although Il Corvo stuck strictly to lunch hours during its tenure, Solimano plans to keep the restaurant open for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. And already there’s a plan to pay it forward to his fellow pop-up operators; he says he’ll offer up the kitchen and “give back to the community that helped support us,” he says. He’s expecting a quick turnaround to opening, with no major construction planned for the space, but until he opens the restaurant, Sfizio will continue on with pop-ups and events through the month of December at Degrees Plato and the Punchdown.