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Star Chef Melissa Perello Has Officially Handed Over the Reins at Octavia to Nico Pena

Plus, it’s the end of an era for this beloved beachside bowling alley and restaurant

Octavia Patricia Chang
Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

It seems congrats are in order for chef Nico Pena, who has officially been named executive chef at the highly regarded Pacific Heights restaurant Octavia. By now, fans of the restaurant should be familiar with Pena’s cooking. He’s been chef de cuisine at Octavia for about two years, having stepped into the role in 2021 when the restaurant reopened for the first time after a year-long closure.

The news also indicates chef and owner Melissa Perello, who spun off the second restaurant from her Castro neighborhood favorite Frances back in 2015, must be stepping back from the kitchen. “Nico’s creativity in the kitchen and ability to keep the menu constantly fresh and exciting is inspiring,” Perello says in a press release. “During his two-year tenure as chef de cuisine, I have been so proud of the team he has rallied in the back of the house and it’s my honor to see him ascend to this new role.”

The Octavia menu continues to showcase seasonal produce from across Northern California including Medium Farm in Healdsburg, Kibo Farm in Sonoma County, and Tenbrink Farm in Fairfield. Drawing from his prior experience cooking at Quince and Tartine Manufactory, Pena has also expanded Octavia’s pasta offerings; the spring menu, for example, includes gnudi with fava greens, pecorino, mint, and black pepper.

At Frances, Perello’s debut restaurant, which first opened in 2009, chef Jordan Whittrock holds the title of chef de cuisine, driving the menu alongside Perello. He joined the team ahead of that restaurant’s reopening in summer 2022, after cooking at Tartine Manufactury during the pandemic and at restaurants including Momofuku Nishi, Atera, and Benu before that.

Oakland Starbucks workers move to unionize

According to KRON4, workers at the Starbucks store at 1211 East Embarcadero Cove in Oakland have filed paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board, a first step on the road to joining the Starbucks Workers United union. Though the workers wouldn’t be the first in the Bay Area to join the union — two Santa Cruz stores became the first in the state to unionize back in May 2022 — they would be among the first in the East Bay, joining a Berkeley location that unionized last year, East Bay Nosh reported.

Matt Horn’s burger spot nears opening

We’ve been waiting about two years for the debut of Matty’s Old Fashioned, the burger shop from the chef behind Oakland’s Horn BBQ. Now, the San Francisco Business Times reports the restaurant is in the final stages of prepping for its opening, hiring staff, and working on training. The restaurant will be located at 464 Eighth Street and will serve burgers, hot dogs, and milkshakes, Eater SF shared in January.

Say goodbye to Pacifica’s second-best tourist destination

Yes, we know Pacifica is home to the world’s most gorgeous Taco Bell. But real ones also know it’s home to Sea Bowl, a retro-fabulous bowling alley and restaurant that’s made a great post-beach hangout for the past 60 years. Sadly, however, the San Francisco Standard reports the entertainment center will close after May 31.