It’s a bold move for a restaurant to open in a neighborhood that’s somewhat of a culinary wasteland. But this is exactly what Piccino did. In 2006, before the Muni T-line rolled down Third Street and UCSF began sprawling out through Mission Bay, the little restaurant quietly started supplying thin-crust pizzas and Blue Bottle coffee to Dogpatch—an industrial part of town that lured artists to work in its old factory loft spaces but was hardly considered a dining destination.
Piccino owners Sher Rogat and Margherita Stewart Sagan clearly lit a fire. Since then, Serpentine and ice creamery Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous have opened and Magnolia Pub is working on its new brewery. Dogpatch officially has buzz.
In May, Piccino made another bold move and relocated just up the block into a sweeping, multifaceted new building, a glowing beacon, lighting up your way from Interstate 280. (Recchiuti Confections, which has always had its chocolate-making facility in Dogpatch, is taking over the old space.) Painted a shade of yellow that could illuminate the night sky, the immense Victorian—which housed a coal dispenser in the olden days—now holds Piccino. There’s a cafe, where you might find yourself getting a morning coffee or a to-go sandwich for lunch, plus the restaurant itself and a standing-room-only, Francophile wine bar and tasting room owned by Wayne Garcia, Rogat’s husband. Sandwiched between all this is the new location of MAC, the modern clothing store that’s been a mainstay for urban fashionistas in SF for 31 years. From inside Piccino, a glass window looks into the boutique, making it appear as if it’s an entire enterprise—a lifestyle, not just a restaurant.
The dining room has the look of a modern barn, all rafters and reclaimed black oak wood. The big, exposed kitchen demands the cooks keep their composure. Wrapped around it is a bar where you can perch and watch them prepare your cauliflower, chili, and caper pizza, or a little fish crudo, or a salad of mustard greens. Yes, meatballs are ubiquitous, but Piccino’s—tender yet meaty and served with a zippy, fresh tomato sauce—make a convincing case for redundancy. It’s all very laid-back and nice here, just like you’d expect in a neighborhood too new to be blasé.
The pizza-meets-pasta menu isn’t groundbreaking, but that’s not the point. It’s a defining moment for a neighborhood, reminiscent of the day when Nopa confidently set down in that area formerly known as the Western Addition. Maybe they should rename Piccino something like WOTS (west of Third Street). It’s easy to imagine that the name could stick.