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Uva Enoteca: On the Radar


Pretty soon, you're going to hear a lot about
this young man.

Boris Nemchenok has a lot of love for Italy and wants to share his passion.  That’s why, after working under Mario Batali at Otto in New York for the last five years, he moved back to his hometown to open Uva Enoteca, his new Italian eatery in the Lower Haight.  The enoteca will serve panini; antipasti; salads; coffee; desserts; beer and exclusively Italian wines all day until midnight.

The Russian-born twenty-eight-year-old will be manning the front of the house—greeting guests, pouring wine, running food—in the casual, but “serious about service” hang out. The chef (and Nemchenok’s partner) is Ben Hetzel, and Hetzel’s wife (local celebrity cocktailian Camber Lay) is also in on the project. It’s a strong team: the staff collectively has experience from Otto and Esca in New York, The Ritz-Carlton Dining Room, Delfina, Sociale, Range, Frisson and EPIC.

We spoke to Nemchenok by telephone about his new venture, slated to open the second week of April. Get there before the mobs, so you can say you knew it when.

What are you most looking forward to now that you’re back in SF?
The weather.  Sixty degrees [in March] is incredible.

What was working under Mario Batali like?
Amazing.  All of the people there made it great.  It was a little different because of the media aspect—I’d start my mornings working with the PR team and prepping the staff on the day’s visitors, which might include the Food Network or a journalist from a magazine.  Then we’d get cooking.

How is Uva different from all of the other Italian spots popping up in SF?
We want an all day eatery, where people can come have panini and antipasti or an espresso or a glass of wine any time of day until midnight. 

I heard you used to go to ’ino (cafeino) in New York after a night of work.  Is Uva based on that NY hotspot?
Not exactly, but we liked the idea of small plates and the wine bar—the point is, we want a spot where you can have a great time and great food and not have to put down a hundred bucks at the end of the night.

Why the Lower Haight?
I love it.  When I was growing up, that’s where I used to hang out.  It reminds me of the East Village, and I want to bring a little more of the Lower East Side to that neighborhood.

Isn’t your cousin in the food biz here, too?
Yes.  My cousin’s husband runs Cinderella’s bakery in the Richmond.  My whole family is pretty into food.  My mom is at Guittard Chocolates in Burlingame, and she used to run a candy factory in Russia, when I was born.

What’s your ideal meal?
A plate of really great prosciutto di Parma and a glass of Lambrusco—that’s it.