San Francisco foodies worthy of their handmade pasta already know the name Matthew Accarrino.
For nearly 15 years, the chef has helmed the stoves at Fillmore Street's Roman-style restaurant SPQR. Since then, he's earned kudos from everyone from Food & Wine to the James Beard Foundation, and earned a Michelin star for the restaurant from 2013 to 2021.
But like everyone else, Accarrino's focus began to wander when the pandemic hit, and he began exploring a more laid-back experience. The silver lining: his new, much more casual restaurant, Mattina, in Pacific Heights.
Bright and casual, Mattina works as well for a quick coffee and scone as it does for a wine-fueled lunch with friends. (Stephanie Amberg)
Opened in April, the Cal-Italian eatery is something of a sunny spin-off from a project the chef started during Covid, SPQR's Coffee & Donuts. "During the pandemic so many places shut down and, as a cyclist, I wanted my coffee stop back," explains Accarrino, who appreciated the sense of fun and community that the weekend pop-up created—"that’s why I really love my job," he says.
When Charles Phan's Out the Door closed in 2021, the chef saw opportunity. Now Mattina, located just around the corner from SPQR, is scratching his itch for a laid-back neighborhood spot serving craveable food—from candy cap mushroom lattes and sweet or savory biscuit sandwiches in the morning to arancini with red sauce for dipping and vermouth spritzes in the afternoon.
The bustling one-way traffic of Bush Street has nothing on Mattina's chill atmosphere, which was designed with the piazzas of Italy in mind. Floor to ceiling windows shed light on cool gray tufted banquettes and blond rattan furnishings; the parklet, currently in its final stages of construction, will bring home that open piazza feel.
It has all been a labor of love for Accarrino, who says the design came together more bit by bit than by master plan. The kitchen's 4,000-pound brick oven made it through the restaurant's standard-width front door by a matter of millimeters ("It took a small crane and a lot of elbow grease").
But so far, it seems to have all worked out.
Tubular fried arancini with salsa rossa for dipping.(Stephanie Amberg)
Mattina, which means both "morning" in Italian and is the name of the Accarrino family's home region in Italy, kicks off its days with Saint Frank Coffees brewed in the custom La Marzocco machine. No one will judge you for pairing your joe with a cookie (there are 48 rotating flavors).
The all-day menu is primed for casual lunches and afternoon snacks with vino. Small bites include indulgent puffs of fried gnocchi served with slices of prosciutto and roasted grapes; wood-fired porchetta skewers and spiedini; and a tried-and-true little gem salad. There are also, of course, handmade pastas including bucatini with lemon ricotta and spring vegetables, and ravioli with toma cheese, tomatoes, and chicken. On our visit, the tagliatelle, with light and creamy marsala mushrooms and truffle cheese, did not disappoint. The pasta was next-level fresh and satisfying without feeling heavy. Need more food? The sirloin steak or branzino are perfect for sharing with friends.
At the end of the day, this is what Mattina is all about: It's designed to be a neighborhood spot to come as you are, gather with your people, and share some bites and some drinks—no Michelin star, but no stress either.
Tagliatelle with marsala mushrooms and truffle cheese.(Stephanie Amberg)
"It’s nice for me to be able to do something that feels like playing different instruments as opposed to conducting the entire orchestra," says the chef, who's enjoying the freedom of his work at Mattina where he's crafting "not-so-secret" gelato cookie sandwiches instead of high-brow multi-course menus.
But wait: There must also be vino. Wines here are mostly Italian with a few locals in the mix. Both bottle and by-the-glass options are affordable, another departure from SPQR.
For now, Mattina closes shop at 3pm, but plans to extend its hours until 9pm by mid-May. Look out for afternoon "appi hour" featuring spritz-inspired beverages and 30 unique vermouths (sorry, no Aperol).
// Mattina, 3322 Bush St. (Pacific Heights), mattinasf.com