A good Italian meal is easy enough to come by in San Francisco. But a great Italian meal, now that’s a little harder. Enter Che Fico.
And then there’s the Italian meal sooo good that Anderson Cooper broke his no-food-on-Instagram rule to share a taste of the pizza. Welcome to Che Fico.
The newest addition to the ever-bustling Divisadero corridor, Che Fico’s second story location could easily be overlooked by oblivious passersby. And that would be too bad, because they’re truly serving some the best rustic Italian food we’ve had. They should put a sign over the door: Pizza Orgasms Here. (Sorry, Pizza Orgasmica.)
Ascend the long narrow staircase and enter to a vibrant scene where you’re likely to notice the wallpaper first. Strewn with quirky illustrations of figs, the wall covering is a nod to the restaurant’s name, which literally translates to “What a Fig.” Che Fico is also Italian slang for “Oh, that’s cool.” And it is.
Massive skylights peer down from soaring ceilings; there’s a large L-shaped bar where you will inevitably wait for a table (reservations are already booked a month out); and a glass-walled salumi room offers a peep at the cured meats—which reminds us, you’re here to eat.
Chef David Nayfeld and James Beard Award–winning pastry chef Angela Pinkerton met while working at NYC’s Eleven Madison Park (read: that’s a big deal); Nayfeld also opened Joël Robuchon’s restaurant at the MGM Las Vegas (another BFD). The team has been laboring over this restaurant for the past four years, and you can taste the effort in their perfect handmade pastas, pizzas, and pastries. Click through below for some of the best, must-order dishes. Tip: Order a bit of it all.
The menu’s Cucina Ebraica section is dedicated to the Judeo-Roman cuisine of Italy—think “peasant comfort foods,” in honor of Nayfeld’s parents, who fled communist Russia for Rome’s Jewish community. Our favorite: the supplì al telefono, a rice croquette filled with provolone cheese and tomato sauce.
The Che Fico Food Rundown
Among the selection of antipasti, our eyes were immediately drawn to the fried caciocavalo cheese, prepared with a hint of lemon and pickled onions over toast. It’s an explosion of sweet and savory flavors.
Not that one ever needs coaxing to order a pizza, but rest assured, Nayfeld’s pies are out of this world. The dough is made with a very specific sourdough yeast starter and whole grains from the West Coast, and then fired to perfection with just the right amount of char on the crust to create a firm base—no flimsy, floppy pizza here. The result is what Nayfeld calls “San Francisco–style” pizza. Opt for the pineapple and red onion pizza with fermented chili and you’ll be one happy camper.
Prepared in house either by hand, by machine, or by drying, the pastas here are standouts. The tagliatelle al ragu tasted fresh and chewy, with crumbly, meaty bits of Bolognese. We recommend ordering the pastas in half portions (like the one pictured here) so you can sample more variations of these delectable carbs.
Another show stopper: the goat milk ricotta gnudi. These fluffy pasta balls are memorably different than any other version you may have had—generous in size, light, rich, and topped with ramps, spring garlic, and leeks.
The offering of secondi (heartier main courses) includes a succulent half or whole wood-fired chicken (the half, shown here, is plenty large enough to share) seasoned with agrodolce, chilies, and alliums for a spicy, sweet flavor that pairs nicely with the creamy polenta.
Whatever you do, don’t miss out on Pinkerton’s desserts. The bittersweet chocolate budino is worth every bite, with creamy mousse topped with a scoop of salted caramel gelato, a drizzle of olive oil, and salt and pepper walnuts.
Look for the retro bulb sign out front for a hint of the good times and good eats inside.
Jon de la Cruz of DLC ID (formerly of Ken Fulk Design, and the lead designer on the lovely Leo’s Oyster Bar) has imagined yet another memorable space in the interior of Che Fico. Try to snag a spot at one of the 15 seats at the zinc-topped bar while you wait for a comfy red leather booth to open up.
What was once an auto body shop has been reformed with exposed wooden beams and huge skylights that illuminate the dining room and the wood-fired grill and a pizza oven, imported from Naples, in the open kitchen.