Occupying a prime spot on Chestnut Street, Castagna was forced to close for a year after an electrical fire in the attic ravaged much of the restaurant. But last month, the bistro reopened with a sleeker, more upscale design, a wine bar, and a new menu featuring cuisine from Provençe, the Côte d’Azur, and the Italian Riviera, reflecting the background of Nice-born co-owners and brothers Jerome and Stephane Meloni.
Chef Stephane says that in addition to offering neighbors a comfortable place to enjoy dinner and weekend brunch, he hopes more people will stop in for a glass of wine and happy hour. The extensive wine list offers specialties from France with a few California varietals thrown in, and there is an ample bar menu, which includes charcuterie and cheese plates.
Seating just 28 inside with 8 sidewalk seats, Castagna’s decor mixes splashes of bright orange art juxtaposed with clean white walls, modern chandeliers, cool pendant lights, and much of the wine selection is on display. For a small space, the dinner menu is expansive. Appetizers ($8–$19) include beef carpaccio; two mussel dishes; French onion soup with fennel; flambéed prawns on a rosemary skewer; crostini with a variety of toppings including roasted calamari, garlic, and zucchini “spaghetti.”
Both thin-crust pizza and fresh linguine ($13–$19) are on the menu, but it is in the “grandes assiettes,” or main courses ($17–$26) where diners will get a true taste of Provençe. Entrees feature gluten-free chickpea crepes stuffed with ratatouille; beef stew cooked in red wine and herbs with mini ravioli; and fennel-crusted Chilean sea bass in a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and lemon olive oil served with black-olive mashed potatoes. Sides ($5–$6) include fries with garlic and parsley, chickpea fries, and sautéed green beans.
Desserts ($8–$16) are simple yet rich and include beignets — plain or filled with Nutella, cream or caramelized apples — to warm molten chocolate cake, crème brûlée, and a cheese plate. Brunch dishes ($6 for sides; $12–$15 for entrees) include standbys eggs Benedict and an omelet with herbs along with soups, salads, quiche, crepes, burgers, and sandwiches. Castagna is the perfect place to relish a classic croque monsieur or madame, a grilled sandwich with ham, Gruyere cheese, and béchamel sauce with or without a fried egg.
And naturellement, Castagna serves espresso drinks.
Castagna: 2015 Chestnut Street, 415-440-4290, castagnasf.com; happy hour Tuesday–Friday 4–6 p.m.; dinner Tuesday–Sunday from 5 p.m.; brunch Saturday–Sunday 10:30 a.m.–5 p.m.