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Disgraced Chef Charlie Hallowell Buys Property in Oakland for a New Restaurant

The chef and owner is aiming to open a restaurant in the spirit of Pizziaolo

Charlie Hallowell and Donna Insalaco.
Charlie Hallowell and business partner Donna Insalaco are headed to the Laurel District. They’re bringing a lot of baggage with them.
Western Pacific
Paolo Bicchieri is a reporter at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, coffee and cafes, and pop-ups.

Chef and restaurateur Charlie Hallowell is attempting another comeback in 2024. Hallowell has been mostly off the grid since 2017, when more than a dozen former staff members from Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service, and Penrose made allegations of sexual misconduct and verbal abuse, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Hallowell left the restaurants amidst the complaints, and now Oaklandside reports that he and business partner Donna Insalaco — who joined Hallowell’s restaurant group in 2018 — have purchased a commercial space at 3724 MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland with the intent to open a new restaurant.

The Laurel neighborhood property is currently home to World Ground Cafe and was purchased in August 2023. There are no specific details regarding the name or opening date of the business. Hallowell told the outlet the new restaurant is set to emulate the atmosphere and menu of Hallowell’s breakout restaurant Pizzaiolo, which highlighted seasonal, wood-fired pizza and pasta.

Eater SF reached out to Hallowell and Pizzaiolo for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Oaklandside spoke to Hallowell on the record, addressing his return to restaurants. “I’m not perfect, but I believe so much in people’s capacity to change. And I’ve really changed,” Hallowell told the outlet. “I’ve worked hard to try to make amends to people who were willing to let me try to do that.”

For Bay Area food fans, Hallowell remains a chef and restaurateur who needs no introduction. The former Chez Panisse cook opened mega-popular Pizzaiolo in Temescal in 2005, followed by Penrose and Boot & Shoe. He received a Rising Star Chef nod from the San Francisco Chronicle in 2006. That unraveled with the 2017 report. Hallowell sold his stake in Penrose and Boot & Shoe but retained Pizziaolo. Then he opened and sold a new business, Western Pacific, the following year, making plans and promises to return to the industry along the way.

Hallowell and Insalaco are waiting for the owner of World Ground Cafe to find a smaller location to move his operation, before beginning construction. The plan is for Anthony Lee, the current executive chef at Pizzaiolo, to run this new restaurant.