We knew we couldn’t leave San Francisco without stopping by Chef April Bloomfield’s newest restaurant, Tosca—a reincarnation of a North Beach classic—so on our last night in California we walked over to visit. Our trip couldn’t have been timed any better, as it was only their third night open.
Tosca was recently rescued by Chef Bloomfield and restaurateur Ken Friedman after the pair learned that the famed bar would be sold. Taking the opportunity to keep it alive as a new restaurant and bar rather than it be torn down or turned into retail space, the two were able to transform the space with a brand new kitchen while still keeping most of its original charm, including old Italianate murals, the jukebox, the famed red leather booths (newly recovered) and the cigarette smoke-stained ceiling’s original patina.
The bar area up front was packed with people either drinking with friends or waiting for a table—there are only 13 of those.
Once you push past the bar, the actual dining room is quiet and spacious, with all of the tables looking into the large open kitchen, where Chef Bloomfield and company were extremely busy preparing plate after plate from their new menu. Both former owner Jeannette Etheredge and current owner Ken Friedman made the rounds to all tables, thanking guests for coming in and asking for opinions on Tosca’s new look.
We dined on chicken liver spiedini, housemade bucatini with guanciale, polenta with mushrooms, crispy pig tails, pork fat roasted potatoes and baby beets with walnut pesto. The food had all of the trademark of April’s New York cooking, but with the rustic Italian flair that she first took on as a young chef at London’s River Cafe.
We capped off our meal with the “house cappuccino,” a Tosca tradition newly revamped with with Marie Duffau Bas Armagnac, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Dandelion chocolate ganache and organic milk. Even though there’s nary a drop of espresso to be found, this cappuccino certainly has the same kick, if not more.
While we’re happy to have a few of our New York friends putting their mark on San Francisco, we were also glad that Tosca’s original character and charm was preserved. The hearty meal set the stage for a decidedly San Fransiscan walk home through the fog, passing the neighborhood’s staples like City Lights Books, Jack Kerouac Alley, and Zoetrope building, which we both love.
– Ryan and Laura