Earlier this month, Dr. Anthony Fauci — who’s been both the trusted and sometimes divisive face of the pandemic for most Americans — unintentionally mentioned that his financial records are a matter of public record, kicking off a flurry of coverage around the doctor’s various investments and holdings. There was a small tidbit buried in a Newsweek report that caught the attention of an attentive Eater SF tipster: that Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to the President, holds a stake somewhere between $1,001 and $15,000 in San Francisco trattoria Jackson Fillmore Trattoria. No doubt there’s something devious going on, right? And even if not, how and why did the doctor choose to throw his money behind this particular restaurant?
Jackson Fillmore owner Jack Krietzman told Eater SF that Fauci played as big a role in the restaurant as any business investor does: a strictly financial one. “I haven’t seen Tony in years,” Krietzman told Eater. “He was way too busy during COVID to talk to me.”
As for how the doctor got involved with the restaurant, Krietzman says it’s a classic case of getting connected through a friend of a friend. They first connected in the late 1970s, when Fauci was often in the Bay Area working on the then-new and misunderstood virus destroying San Franciscans’ lives: HIV. Krietzman’s best friend’s uncle knew Fauci from the East Coast and recommended that the epidemiologist get in touch with his nephew, Krietzman’s friend, for insight into the city’s culture. Krietzman’s best friend naturally recommended Krietzman’s cooking — which led to an opportunity to invest in Krietzman’s restaurant. “I’ve only met him a few times,” Krietzman says. “I think he’s only been to Jackson Fillmore a couple of times... I really don’t know. I don’t talk to him. I don’t talk to any of my partners. They’re just investors.”
Beyond the restaurant’s tenuous connection to arguably America’s most famous doctor, Krietzman’s impact on Italian cooking in San Francisco can’t be overstated. In 2018, Jackson Fillmore was recognized as a San Francisco legacy business, and the restaurant’s dedication to originality and true skill in preparation of their meals has not gone unnoticed.
Krietzman, who was born and raised in New Jersey, made it to San Francisco in 1974 by way of thumb. He had come to San Francisco after a number of years on the road after dropping out of university and quitting his pizza parlor job in Boston. Once here, he became a cook at Vanessi’s, a veritable icon, from 1977 to 1979, and opened his first San Francisco restaurant, Little Italy in Noe Valley, in 1979. That restaurant stayed open until 2000, with Krietzman heading the food until 1985 when his relationship with his fellow co-owner went sour.
Seeing problems as opportunities, Krietzman wanted to try again. “I thought it was a good accomplishment,” Krietzman said. “But I was restless.” Jackson Fillmore was where he wanted to go even further with Italian food, and something about the restaurant’s blue neon sign on the window; or the autumn salad adorned with pomegranate, prosciutto, and pistachio; or the timeless carbonara, worked. Jackson Fillmore, Krietzman’s second restaurant, has been open for 36 years.
There’s something undeniably special about Krietzman, too. Ever since that pizza parlor, he knew he was born to do this work, he said. Making friends and always knowing where your next meal was coming from was the greatest gig in the world. “I never worked a day in my life,” Krietzman said. The 55-seat trattoria took a hit during COVID, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Krietzman credits his tight community relationships, a patient and flexible staff (most of whom were brought back on board when things became somewhat normal again), and a GoFundMe he launched to keep things afloat. “It was scary. It’s still scary,” Krietzman said. “I think it’s a wave we just need to ride out.”
Even if Fauci doesn’t make appearances at the restaurant, Krietzman is happy with the restaurant’s long, generous legacy. Vanessi’s closed in 1997, and Little Italy went on without him from 1985 to 2000 for a total of 21 years. That original neon sign at Jackson Fillmore coughed out during the pandemic, so Krietzman bought a new one. “Whether you’re a rock star or a politician, everyone gets the same treatment,” he said. “We’re doing our thing and making good food.”
Update: February 3, 2022, 8:30 a.m.: This story has been updated to reflect Dr. Anthony Fauci invested only in Krietzman’s restaurant Jackson Fillmore.