It’s the end of a leopard-spotted pizza era in San Francisco. Zero Zero, chef and owner Bruce Hill’s SoMa Neapolitan-style pizzeria, will serve its final pies on Saturday, November 12. Hill says the decision has been a long time coming, noting that coming out of the pandemic has been “just too tough” for the restaurant. There are a number of reasons behind the decision, but in a nutshell, Zero Zero’s large, bi-level downtown space has become untenable in a post-COVID landscape. “I would definitely categorize it as a struggling downtown restaurant,” Hill says. “I truly feel if Zero Zero was in a neighborhood location, we’d be fine.”
When it opened not far from Moscone Center at 826 Folsom Street back in 2010, the pizzeria, which was once hailed as the French Laundry of pizza in San Francisco, quickly established itself as one of the power players of the then-burgeoning upscale pizza scene. Hill had already built a reputation for slinging excellent pies at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur — though that restaurant remains open, Hill amicably parted ways with the ownership group back in 2019. It was at Picco that Hill first wowed Bay Area diners and critics with a combination of pillowy pizzas topped with seasonal ingredients and creamy organic soft serve ice cream for dessert, a savory-sweet combo he carried over to the Zero Zero menu. The San Francisco restaurant has been a pizza staple ever since, praised by both local chefs and none other than Tara Reid.
But before the pandemic, Zero Zero used to serve some 300 diners a day, Hill explains. These days, there’s only enough traffic and staff to justify being open Tuesday through Saturday, which means the restaurant would need to serve even more diners within the five days a week they’re open for business. “It's just not working,” Hill says. The return of downtown conventions like DreamForce has given the restaurant a bit of a bump, but compared to the days when tech workers would fill the space for lunch and belly up to the bar after work, it’s not even close.
As Zero Zero nears its final service, Hill says he’s proud to have been one of the first to bring wood-fired pizza to the city. He’s grateful to a long list of staff for helping the restaurant sustain its 12-year run: chef Jose Canto, who worked at the restaurant since day one; general manager Michael Butler, who battled to keep Zero Zero staffed during COVID; all the staff, many whom have been with the restaurant for a decade or more; and interior designer Michael Brennan, who “established our Wild West-steampunk atmosphere,” Hill wrote in a statement. Also on the list are all the suppliers, producer partners, and farmers at Foodwise.
Hill remains the executive chef at Bix, the supper club about a block off Columbus on Jackson Street; if anyone wants to eat his food after November 12, they can find him there. Hill’s not entirely ruling out the possibility of getting back in the pizza game at some point down the line — but it would have to be after he wraps up things with Zero Zero. As a sole owner, he says it’s no small feat to properly close up shop. “I love pizza and I’d love to be involved in a wood-fired pizza business in the future,” Hill says. “But, for now, I’ve got my hands full.”
Zero Zero, located at 826 Folsom Street in San Francisco, will have its last day of service on Saturday, November 12.