There’s a new Italian gem opening in a beloved space in Nob Hill. If you recall, Seven Hills made pasta waves when it moved only three blocks from Nob Hill to Russian Hill back in December 2019. It’s since settled into that new location at 1896 Hyde Street, enjoying the extra elbow room to roll fresh maccheroncelli. However, the owners never gave up their original home at 1550 Hyde Street, where regulars loved to cozy up in the bay windows and watch the trolley cars trundle by. Originally, the owners hoped to open a new restaurant here within a few months, but that stretched to four years. Still, they never gave up the lease — despite the rent doubling.
Well, it’s finally happening, all you raviolo aficionados. The team plans to open a new restaurant called Collina before the end of September. The name means “little hill” in Italian, fitting for a little sister spot in San Francisco. The restaurant will serve a comforting and affordable menu of chicken under a brick, fresh pastas, seasonal salads, and Italian vino. “We wanted to bring down the price point and keep it neighborhood-driven,” says owner Alexis Solomou. “So you can build out an entree with sides, or come in for a casual glass of wine.”
It’s the exact same team the neighborhood already knows and loves. Executive chef Anthony Florian cooked across Italy, nearby wine country, and at Michelin-starred Quince before becoming a loyal partner in Seven Hills, going on nearly 10 years now. His longtime sous chef Dennis Diaz is stepping up to run the kitchen at Collina; the two met long ago at Cotogna. Solomou’s wife and sommelier Lucia Solomou will be curating the wine list, and their kids like to swing by. At a time when many new restaurants have been struggling with hiring, Alexis Solomou was able to keep his entire kitchen team during the pandemic, who he says feel like family.
Florian and Diaz will roll out a fresh menu at Collina while folding in a few longtime favorites. They’re known for fresh pasta, and diners can sink a fork straight into the new lasagnette, stacking 48 layers of bolognese, bechamel, and spinach. Diaz presses it into a deep pan overnight, then slices it into tall cross sections, pan-searing it until golden and crispy. The raviolo’s a throwback — Alexis Solomou claims Seven Hills had it on the menu before Cotogna, and diners still ask for it. But there’s no need to pick pasta teams, as Collina’s version arrives in a nest of chard or mushrooms, with that golden egg yolk hidden in the center, so it breaks into a pool of brown butter. Pastas range from $14 for a small portion of spaghettini to $26 for the meatiest slice of lasagnette.
They’re brining chicken until plump and juicy, before searing and smashing it under a brick to render the skin extra crispy, and drizzling it with bright salsa verde before it’s served as half a chicken to share. They plan to break down half a pig a week and distribute it between the restaurants, and Florian’s into offal — he’s slowly simmering tripa alla romana in a silky tomato sauce, before topping it with a fried egg, and fresh marjoram and mint. “If you know the tripa, and you’ve had it cooked the right way, this is the tripa that you’re looking for,” Diaz promises. The team shops at the farmers market several times a week, and seasonal produce stars in the pan con tomate with cherry tomatoes bursting into crusty bread, and fresh shelling beans marinated in bright vinegar and buttery olive oil.
At big sister Seven Hills down the street, they’re also milling their own flour and baking their sourdough, so little sister Collina may get in on the daily focaccia. The wine list will be one hundred percent Italian, and Lucia Solomou’s excited to feature small family wineries and less-expected grapes. Instead of prosecco, for instance, she’s popping a sparkling falanghina.
This original location at 1550 Hyde Street is still a jewel box at 1,800 square feet, which creates a charming dining room, but left the tiny kitchen hot. The team ripped out the grill and installed a smaller stove to help the cooks stay cool. They refreshed the dining room with moody blue paints and velvet banquettes. Lucia Solomou’s mother and artist Jacqueline Groswird contributed the oil paintings. And the details sparkle, with Murano blown-glass light fixtures in a Champagne color, as well as gold leaves and lettering scrawled across the windows. The classic black-and-white awning still hangs at the front, and three lucky stools still pull up to one of the coziest little bars in San Francisco.
Collina joins several new restaurants satisfying a current craving for affordable pasta. Pasta Supply Co. has been rocking a $14 buttered malfadine in the Inner Richmond, while Sfizio has been twirling $16 spaghetti and meatballs in Oakland. But the Solomous and Florian certainly know their longtime regulars in Nob Hill, and they promise to feed them well — whether it’s a weeknight at Collina or an occasion at Seven Hills. “I want to have the experience of having friends and family over, and sharing all of the luxurious farm-to-table ingredients that San Francisco can actually offer,” Diaz says.
Collina (1550 Hyde Street) debuts on Thursday, September 28. Opening hours will be 5 to 9 p.m., Thursday through Monday.