(Photography by Sarah Chorey)

First Taste: Baia gives vegans what we all want—"cheesy," saucy Italian comfort fare


One of our favorite guilty pleasures—Italian food—is getting a healthy makeover at Baia, the new plant-based eatery that has quietly opened inside the legendary Hayes Valley space that was long home to Traci Des Jardins' Jardinière.

From James Beard Award–nominated chef and prolific cookbook author Matthew Kenney, who helms a slew of vegetarian restaurants from Los Angeles to New York—including Plant Food + Wine in L.A. and Oliver's in Montecito—Baia, which means bay in Italian, is serving an all-vegetarian take on one of the world's most beloved cuisines.

Baia is at the corner of Grove and Franklin streets in the former Jardinière space. Walk-up orders are welcome.(Sarah Chorey)

At first glance, the menu has all usual suspects: meatballs, caesar salads, pastas, thin-crust pizzas, and such classic entrees as lasagna and eggplant parm. But once we dug in, we found that Kenney has incorporated coy vegetarian ingredients into his highly nuanced fare.

Pizzas can be made with gluten-free crust; mozzarella and ricotta cheeses are actually dairy-free alternatives; and all instances of Bolognese, as well as the aforementioned balls, are made with Impossible "meat." Soy-free and nut-free annotations are also doable here, and dishes will rotate regularly. Baia also offers five large batch cocktail recipes along with a small selection of local beers and wines by the bottle. It's all available now for takeout and delivery in San Francisco.

Not feeling Italian? The Baia team is also running a Japanese-style pop-up, called Woodblock Sushi, out of its Civic Center kitchen. Yes, you can expect the same vegan cooking philosophy applied to fresh maki rolls, curry bowls, and veggie tempura.

Baia is co-owned by avid plant-based eaters and animal advocates Tracy and Kyle Vogt (cofounder and CTO of the self-driving car company Cruise), who met Kenney in L.A. This new restaurant is the manifestation of their shared love for vegan cooking.

(Photography by Sarah Chorey)

Baia's "old school" garlic knots are dense-but-chewy carb-y morsels seasoned with Italian herbs and garlic.

// Baia, 300 Grove St. (Hayes Valley), is open for takeout daily. Call 415.861.0625 to order for pickup, or find delivery through all the major services; baiasf.com.

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