In a city of foodies accustomed to always having a hot restaurant opening on the calendar, shelter in place has been a recalibration, with many of us settling into a regular rotation of to-go takeout spots—that favorite pizza joint, the neighborhood deli, tacos on Tuesdays.
With a few exceptions, there aren't a whole lot of new eateries dropping these days, so naturally when California Fish Market opened, you might say we were hooked.
Now open daily in North Beach from Francesco Covucci and Peter Fazio, owners of much-loved neighbor restaurants Il Casaro Pizzeria and Barbara Pinseria & Cocktail Bar, this restaurant's name says it all. You'll find an array of fresh saltwater catches and crustaceans in raw bar form—think oysters, Spanish octopus, prawns, and the prettiest crudo Calabrese—and hot preparations including pastas, crab chowder, and hearty cioppino swimming with mussels, clams, shrimp, and calamari.
(Photography by Sarah Chorey)
California Fish Market takes its chowder to the next level as crab-laden affair. Sop up every last bit of the creamy broth with chunks of crusty bread.
If the new seafood concept feels like a departure for the team, who also ran Pasta Pop-Up, a carb-and-sauce joint at this same address, the change of tack is intentional: "Here I'm with three restaurants in three blocks serving almost the same food, pizza and pasta mainly; it would make no sense to keep all three restaurants open," says Covucci, who aimed to diversify not just his portfolio but the local takeout options—there's just not a lot of to-go seafood around here. "It's amazing, the locally sourced seafood and produce that California can offer to people who are always looking to try something new with a sustainable approach."
As it happens, many of San Francisco's waterfront seafood spots have been closed for months due to shelter in place, and so sales for seafood suppliers are down; this restaurant would be a win-win opportunity. At California Fish Market, the seafood is fairly priced, sustainably sourced, and expertly prepared, and the place doubles as both a restaurant and retail market.
"It was clear in my mind that SIP has started to change people's habits, probably permanently," Covucci says. "Fewer people are out and there's more cooking at home. Like we say in Italy, if the fish is fresh there is not much to do—grill it, add extra virgin olive oil, lemon, salute!"
If you're looking to take away, there is a school of easy-to-grill, healthy choices at the ready. Or, you can take advantage of the location's parklet, which has outdoor seating for up to 24 guests ready to dive into Italian-leaning preparations including bowls of lobster ravioli in tomato cream brandy sauce; fried fish and chips; freshly grilled salmon and asparagus; or spicy Spanish octopus stew. To drink? Have a toast with specialty cocktails that evoke both Italy and the sea—like a clamato juice michelada, a negroni sbagliato, or lively prosecco spritz.