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Flavor Profile: Delfina's Craig Stoll

Craig Stoll

Craig Stoll, photo by Michael Shindler

Credentials: Delfina Restaurant Group chef-owner
News Flash: Stoll and his wife Annie take Pizzeria Delfina to Burlingame Palo Alto later this fall. Plus, an inaugural cookbook is in the works.

When did you first know you wanted to be a chef?
High school. I was working as a prep cook in a Continental Italian restaurant and found that my cooking abilities helped me get girlfriends. This was long before the term “celebrity chef” was coined, when cooking was only considered a trade.

Favorite ingredient to work with and why?
Olive oil. Salt. Pepper. Duh.

Best thing you’ve eaten in SF?
Crab Louie (in season) at Swan Oyster Depot. Have it in January with vinegar, oil, and Louie dressing on the side.

What do you make for yourself to eat at home?
When I’m home I just want something simple: Steak in a cast iron pan, or a piece of grilled fish, “Home” salad (lettuce, fennel cucumber, Banyuls vinaigrette), and then whatever vegetable I can get my family to eat.

Greatest indulgence?
Taking an entire day off, leaving town, and not checking my email even once.

What motivates you?
The desire to create something beautiful, lasting, that people interact with, that touches peoples’ lives. I love the idea of taking something from a pen-on-cocktail-napkin concept and building it with people, so that people can live in it or can share experiences in it.

What would you request for your last meal?
Family Dinner. See above.

Who are your heroes?
I don’t have any chef idols. I have people who I think are amazing, but none that necessarily inspired my career or longed to cook with. I hate to say it, but my cooking was inspired by Italian grandmas.

What’s in your refrigerator?
Jams. Hot Sauces. Generally I’d have a ton of fruit, because that’s what my daughter eats. Dozen eggs. Delfina leftovers. Mission Chinese leftovers. Always some wine.

Where do you go for a good drink and what do you order?
I go to Locanda and get a Negroni. Shameless. Sorry.

Go-to takeout or delivery?
Mission Chinese or Limon.

Bay Area restaurants on your list to try?
Plow, Benu, and Coqueta.

Favorite pairing?
I like the classics, Lobster and Chardonnay, or California Indica and New York Super Fudge Chunk.

Favorite don't-tell-anyone junk food?
French fries for breakfast. Or peanut M&Ms.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?
Deer lungs. It was a family meal at Da Delfina [in Italy]. I’ve eaten horse, brains, and testicles—but really the lungs had to be the least appetizing thing I’ve ever eaten.

If you weren't a chef, you'd be….?
Probably a mid level manager in a company that sells cosmetic packaging. Or a beat poet. Or a cab driver. Or a spy… No, I think I’d be into some sort of design, architecture or city planning.

Any dietary restrictions?
No raw kale. Don’t feed me raw kale.

Customer pet peeves?
No call, no show for a reservation, or the phrase “Do you know who I am?” Also, when people threaten my staff with “I’m going to call the owners. I know 'Greg' and ‘Franny’ really well.”

Describe your kitchen persona in one word.
Analytical.

Favorite SF neighborhood?
The Mission. It’s where I live and work mostly.

Strangest customer request?
I once had a guest request no seasoning. They said, “I don’t want it to taste like anything.”

Proudest professional moment?
Our first Delfina review was then I realized that I wouldn’t have to get a second job and this restaurant thing was going to work out.

This article was published in 7x7's September issue. Click here to subscribe.