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Delfina's Fourth Restaurant: Craig Stoll Finally Speaks

Ever since it became public that Delfina’s Craig and Anne Stoll are set to open their fourth Italian restaurant in what is now the 80-seat restaurant Ramblas on Valencia Street by 16th, the rumor mill has been cranking. It is true that they will once again share a wall with Tartine, but as for the other details, Stoll took some time with me today in order to confirm and deny.

So everyone’s saying your going to open a Mexican restaurant because you tweeted about going to Mexico for some research. True or false?
What happened was I read that rumor, and we were on our way to Mexico and I posted that tweet just to feed into it. There’s another rumor that we’re not opening in the Mission, that we’re opening in Pac Heights. Somebody else said that we’re going to move Delfina over to the new space and make it really upscale and that we were going to combine Pizzeria Delfina and Delfina into one big pizzeria. We’re not, but it’s a good idea.

So what’s it really going to be?

It’s going to be Roman … unless it’s not. I’m very, very excited to be doing a Roman place because we love the food from there. Rome speaks to me. Everything about it. The new restaurant will have a bigger pasta menu, including extruded pasta (when it’s pressed through a die instead of rolled)—maybe 9 to 12 pastas in total. There’s a number of Roman dishes we’ll roll through though. Roman food uses pecorino cheese, black pepper, they tend towards dried pasta. They do spring vegetables really well. There will always be artichokes on the menu, whatever season it is. And if I can get a wood fired grill in there, the entrees will all be proteins from the grill, but I don’t know if we can afford it.

What’s the time line?
Ron [from Ramblas] is probably going to close the place at the end of May. I don’t know when we’ll be able to get in there. It’s glacially slow, the whole ABC process. You can’t close escrow until the liquor license transfers and maybe I’ll find I have a criminal record I don’t know about. But if that doesn’t happen they’re saying 90 days. I think we’ll open in the fall.

You’ll be headed to Rome for research I’m sure. What are some of your favorite places?
I can’t wait to go back to Quinzi & Gabrieli; it’s a seafood restaurant that we ate at twice the last time I was there. It rocked my world. I had the best version of sardines and fennel and currents with fusilli, as well as the crudo platter. The lobster with spaghetti was mindblowing. We ate dinner and then we went and picked the cook’s brain for a couple hours (but I lost my journal of 10 years of Italian eating which was devastating).

Anywhere else?

Al Ceppo. It was amazing. Eating there, I just felt like there was nowhere I’d rather be.

This is your first full bar. Very exciting.

There are a lot of dive bars in the Mission that we all go to, but this bar will be a grown up bar. It’s not going to be all mixologisted out though.

Will your drinks take over 10 minutes to make?

No. Although I do love nice ice and quality ingredients.

Will you light any drinks on fire?

No, but when I used to work at Timo’s, after hours all the waitresses would put matches on their breasts and light them fire. That was pretty fun.

You guys are going to have the benefit of the Mission District’s new, pretty street upgrades. Will you be having sidewalk seating?

The city’s encouraging that. They’re widening the sidewalks and adding trees and street lighting and furniture and mid-walk cross walks and curb bump outs and it’s really sweet. We’re on the sunny side of the street too.

What are you going to call this restaurant?

Locanda is the working word. It’s translates to gathering place. But it might be Locanda something-something.

Any concerns about the number of Italian restaurants in the city now?
Well, we do worry that maybe people are Italian’ed out, but it’s what we do. I don’t really know what to say. It would be a stretch for me to open a Southeast Asian restaurant, but it would be fun.

Did you ever think you’d have four restaurants when you opened Delfina 12 years ago?
No. I don’t know how to have four restaurants. I hope it works out.