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The Tablehopper

Who’s the boss (in North Beach)?

Capo’s bar photo: courtesy of The Rundown SF

At long last — Tony Gemignani finally opened Capo’s on Nov. 16 — a year after the news that he was opening a new restaurant in the former Pulcinella space (641 Vallejo Street, 415-986-8998). Capo’s is going to be quite an anchor on Vallejo Street, with its vintage-inspired neon sign shining brightly among the vacant businesses with
shuttered windows.

As soon as you walk through the elegant front doors, you’ll feel transported to another place: think Chicago, 1920s–1950s (complete with some dark, dramatic lighting). To the left, there’s a meat slicer in the window and a long, custom Deco-inspired wood bar running along the wall. In between the bar and the dining room there’s a low dividing wall, with daily newspapers for reading. To the right are large booths and a banquette, all with tufted backs in oxblood leather. I love the additional bench seat that can be added to the coveted booths, each with a round picture of famous mob bosses hung on the brick walls (made with seven tons of 100-year-old brick). Though the name “capo” means “boss” — and you’ll find plenty of gangster memorabilia — there are also pictures of Feds counting money and other nods to Chicago, from baseball to beers.

The ceiling is made of pressed tin, the floors are cork, there’s a functioning 1930s-era phone booth (you can call anywhere in the United States for free), and the plates
are classic Niagara china. The restaurant used to be the site of Adolph’s in the 1950s, and on the back wall, you’ll see it featured in a vintage oil mural on canvas of Vallejo Street. (Tony is trying to track down the original artist; he found the artwork rolled
up onsite.)

Tony had the idea for the place about four years ago and has been working on the six pizza styles he’s serving for a while. Because deep-dish pizza takes longer to bake (and therefore guests stay longer), he knew he needed to dedicate a restaurant just to this pizza style. You’ll find four traditional Chicago styles: cracker-thin crust (it doesn’t have any fat and is served in squares), deep dish, stuffed (which is like deep dish but comes with a lid of dough and sauce on top), and cast-iron (the crust is cooked in lard). He’s using Ceresota flour, and his sausage mix is a combo of Chicago sausage that he has shipped here and house-made Calabrese.

Other special pizzas are the “quattro forni” — cooked in four different ovens (only 20 are available per day) — and a gluten-free option coming soon. There are also classic Chicago dishes like baked mostaccioli, chicken Vesuvio, and, of course, a Chicago beef sandwich at lunch. Look for a lot of dishes finished in the wood-burning oven, like
the lasagna.

The bar is primarily dedicated to whiskey, and if you order the Chicago cocktail, the vintage National register on the bar will be put to use (and you get a $1 token off your
next Chicago).

Dinner is served Monday and Wednesday–Sunday, and lunch Friday – Sunday. Reservations are by phone only (and you might want to call for one right away, because the book is filling up). There is valet parking, but the joint is cash only.
Capone would approve.

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Now open on the Marina Green is the Dynamo Donut and Coffee kiosk I mentioned a while back. You can now swing by for donuts and Four Barrel Coffee after your run — and enjoy a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Hours are Tuesday–Saturday 8 a.m.–4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.–4 p.m. The location is 110 Yacht Road, just off Baker Street at Marina Boulevard on the Marina Green (in front of the St. Francis
Yacht Club).

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And after 12-plus years in business, Ana Mandara (891 Beach Street) in Ghirardelli Square has closed. In a note from chef Khai Duong, he says, “We will miss stepping into Ana Mandara each day and are grateful to the guests, staff and vendors we have built relationships with over these years.”

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Marcia Gagliardi writes a popular weekly e-column about dining at www.tablehopper.com and is the author of a book about dining and drinking in San Francisco. E-mail hot tips to marcia@marinatimes.com