Noe Valley Voice May 2010

And Now for the Rumors Behind the News: May Daze

By Mazook

IT'S A DONE DEAL: The decades-old cap on new restaurants on 24th Street will soon be lifted. On April 27, the Board of Supes voted unanimously to approve legislation sponsored by Supervisor Bevan Dufty that would allow more restaurants in Downtown Noe Valley--that is, restaurants of the full-service and self-serve kind.

Dufty explained his stand in a community email sent out after the vote: "Since the 1980s, new restaurants have not been allowed to open on 24th Street in response to community concerns of formula retail and fast food chains opening and taking over San Francisco's neighborhood commercial districts. Since that time, the Planning Department has amended their Planning Code to deal with both chain and fast food stores, and as a result, the need for an outright ban is now unnecessary."

According to Dufty's chief of staff, Boe Hayward, the legislation will get a second reading May 4, where no opposition is expected, and it will then be shipped to the mayor, who is expected to sign the bill, and the ban will go "poof."

What that will mean is anybody's guess.

Dufty also wrote that any new restaurants would have to get a conditional use (CU) permit. "The CU process is the Planning Department's highest bar and requires the applicant to show that they are both necessary and desirable for the neighborhood and allows for a great deal of public input. Fast food restaurants will continue to be prohibited along 24th Street."

The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation predicts that the likelihood of a new restaurant opening in a non-restaurant space in DNV any time in the foreseeable future is next to nil. The costs would be high--the permit process requires big bucks--and the public meetings would be quite interesting. Remember Starbucks?

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IT HASTA BE PASTA: Local restaurateur Andriano Paganini, who lives on Liberty Street, has sold his interest in the 29 Pasta Pomodoro restaurants he owned in Northern California. Paganini opened his first PP in 1994 in the Marina District, and his fourth in 1997 in Noe Valley on the corner of Noe and 24th. While there were once seven in San Francisco, only two remain, in Laurel Village and Noe Valley.

As some of you might know, when Paganini expanded Pasta Pomodoro's operations at the beginning of this century, he sold part of the company to Wendy's International Restaurant Group, which apparently was going to go national with PP but which decided otherwise after a merge with Arby's.

The PP chain was purchased in January by two Bay Area entrepreneurs, Matthew Janopaul and Girish Satya. Janopaul formerly was the president of Fender Musical Instruments, and Sataya was with the New York professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal, who bill themselves as "turnaround specialists."

According to president and CEO Janopaul, the plan is to turn around and focus on those things that made Pasta Pomodoro popular in its early days. "We will make very few changes in our menu, continue to use local produce, feature products from Niman Ranch, Belfiore Cheese, and Zoe Meats.

"We want to continue with what has made Pasta Pomodoro so successful in the past: great food, reasonably priced for our customers.

"The only changes we made in our menu," says Janopaul, "were to bring back two very popular dishes from the past, namely the Linguine with Clams and the Eggplant Parmesan, and to add more vegetarian dishes. We learned this when we asked customers for suggestions."

Janopaul says the Noe Valley restaurant is number one in sales "at our urban locations and in the top 10 of all our restaurants."

By the way, he says the most popular dish on the menu is Penne Portobello, which is Portobello mushrooms, grilled chicken, and house-cured Italian sausage in a roasted garlic cream. Hey, we're getting hungry.

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PASTA, ANTIPASTO, AND ALICE WATERS: Meanwhile, Paganini has been busy opening new restaurants. First he opened Beretta Restaurant two years ago, on the corner of 23rd Street and Valencia. It has a full bar and Italian fare, including a thin-crust pizza; dinner is served till 1 a.m.

Eight months ago, he opened Starbelly over in the Castro on the corner of 16th and Market. Three months ago, he opened Delarosa in the Marina (2175 Chestnut Street), which serves "Roman"-style pizza. And finally, in April he opened another restaurant in the Castro, at 2304 Market at Noe. Super Duper is a burger spot that is already getting rave reviews, especially for the secret sauce concocted by Paganini.

"I wanted to go back to what I did before," says Paganini, "that is, being in control of the quality of the food and being proud of what we were serving."

In other food news: The weekly events at Noe Valley's famous cookbook store, Omnivore, are being mobbed by our neighborhood's food lovers.

Folks were lined up out the door April 10, when Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters showed up with her new book, In the Green Kitchen.

"We had almost a hundred people come to the book-signing," says Omnivore owner Celia Sack, "and Alice was so nice to stay for over an hour talking to people she met."

Check out Omnivore's May calendar on its website,, or in our Calendar this month (pages 30-31). The most interesting (and probably most crowded, since the store can squish only about 40 people inside) evening looks to be an appearance by New York Times food writer Kim Severson on May 17, 6 to 7 p.m. She'll talk about her "confessional" memoir, Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life.

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STORES GALORE: It looks like many a vacant Downtown Noe Valley store is pending commercial occupancy. It's all about supply and demand. We all know that two new restaurants will be opening on Main Street soon: La Chihuahua in Bistro 24's spot, and Patxi's where Mi Lindo Yucatan used to be on 24th near Castro.

And now we can confirm that a florist will be moving into the space recently vacated by Artsake, on 24th across from Whole Foods. It will be called Joseph Andrade Floral, whose namesake has been doing wholesale floral work and now wants to get into retail.

It's also true that a women's clothing store called Sway, with four stores in the East Bay, will make its first foray into San Francisco in the long-vacant, much-coveted Streetlight Records spot (24th near Noe). The shop is renting the space, and the building is still for sale--and the owner has lowered his price.

The "For Rent" sign has been removed from the former haunts of our 24th Street fortune-teller Nina Stevens--a result that was sorta predictable. We'll need to check our crystal ball to find out who will occupy the rather small space, and psychic Stevens' current whereabouts.

We're sure you noticed that Cooks Boulevard, the kitchen store next to Cover to Cover on Castro, has closed. Owner Malcolm Haar, who worked hard to stay above water in the sinking economy of '08-09, wrote in a note to friends and customers March 8, "Our plan was indeed to stay open. It's become clear, however, that our current situation isn't sustainable." He added that he'd had "an amazing 5+ years in a wonderful community, and [I] appreciate all your support during this time."

The rent at Cooks' former space will reportedly be $6,200 a month.

And by the time you read this, Lisa Violetto's 24th Street store will be closed, ending an almost eight-year run.

"We were open two and a half years on Castro near Jersey," says co-owner Judy Frangquist, "and our five-year lease expired. We both decided it was time to move on. I have married and am now thinking about a family, and Lisa has a booming home-staging business where she has to devote a lot of time. It was a great run."

At press time, we found out that the French Tulip, on 24th and Sanchez, is closing as well. That will be sad news to many--it was just a couple of months ago that someone in our "On 24th Street" survey called the French Tulip "the most romantic place in Noe Valley."

Down on Church Street, rumors have been confirmed that the space where When Modern Was was (WMW moved to 24th Street two months ago) will become a hair salon. The garden store next door, Independent Nature, will stay.

And across the street where Green Twig was (it moved up Church to the corner of 25th), a retail store selling body products, Heliotrope, is scheduled to open in early June.

According to Heliotrope co-owner Jonathan Plotzker, the shop "will feature skin care, aromatherapy, and bath and body products for men and women, with essential oils that you can use to produce your own fragrance."

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ROO THE DAY: Starting May 4, in the space at 816 Diamond last occupied by Just Awesome Games, you'll find a new preschool for kids up to five years old, called Kangaroos Play & Learn Activity Center (KPLAC).

"We currently have a space over in the Sunset," says Magda Bach, who with Natella Shtern runs KPLAC, "where we are filled and have a waiting list. We were looking for a second location and found that several of our families come from Noe Valley, so we thought the neighborhood, which has a lot of parents, would be a good place to open, so here we are."

Bach says classes have 15 to 18 children and are offered weekday mornings 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., and afternoons noon to 3 p.m. KPLAC also has an all-day Saturday class, which includes breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus a snack, for $60. "There is a big demand in San Francisco now from parents who want to start their kids in a part-time program early, and involve them with the socialization process," Bach says.

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IN ROUND FIGURES: On Cinco de Mayo (May 5), Circle Bank will throw a big party at 3938 24th Street, next to Whole Foods, in celebration of the branch's May 1 opening. From 5 to 7 p.m., "we will have food, a raffle, and games for the kids, and a margarita machine for the adults," says Noe Valley Branch Manager Carlos Rivera.

He also invites everyone to the bank's official grand opening, set for May 26, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. "Whole Foods is catering the event, and we will be serving wine," Riviera says.

Circle is based in Novato, with other branches in San Rafael, Petaluma, and Santa Rosa. Its Noe Valley branch, open seven days a week, will feature an area for children with widescreen TV, a stroller parking space, and accommodations for pets.

Rivera comes to Circle from Citibank, where he also worked as a manager (at the Eureka Valley branch). "I am very excited to be working in Noe Valley," says Rivera. "When I was in high school at McAteer, I used to live on the second floor of the apartment building right up [24th] street, next to Bernie's coffeehouse."

Rivera has served as a board member for the San Francisco Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and for the Mission Area Youth Credit Union. He's also an active member of Reading Partners, a nonprofit literacy program.

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KEEPING IT REALTORS: Late May is when Alain Pinel Realtors is expecting to open its Noe Valley office, says Pinel's regional manager, Tim Murray. The branch will fill the corner slot at 24th and Vicksburg, where Phoenix Books used to reside.

Pinel Realtors, reputed to be the sixth largest residential real estate company in the U.S., is headquartered in Saratoga, Calif., and has 32 offices in the greater Bay Area. Noe Valley will be the firm's third in the city, after the Marina and Cow Hollow.

According to Murray, who will oversee the office, Pinel in Noe Valley will have a staff of 15 agents, but will serve as the home base for more. "We found that most of our top-selling agents also have home offices and are living in Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, Cole Valley, Bernal Heights, and Liberty Heights, so this location is very centrally located for them and their clients," Murray says.

For the record, Pinel is leasing the space and not buying the building, which is owned by top-selling real estate broker and longtime Noe Valleyan Sue Bowie.

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PROPS TO THE SUPES: Yes, the California primary election will be held Tuesday, June 8, ushering in a very political summer leading up to the November general election.

The Noe Valley Bureau of Investigation warns that only 30 percent of the 16,000 registered voters in Noe Valley are likely to vote, which in majority-rule elections means 15 percent could hold all the cards. That's more dangerous to our democracy than any terrorist group could be. Vote!

By the way, the Department of Elections wants you to know that in a primary election those who have registered with a qualified political party (Republican, Democrat, the American Independent Party, the Green Party, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom) may vote only for candidates from that party in "partisan contests" such as Senator or Governor. Independents can vote for either Repubs or Demos (should they wish). You can register or re-register until May 24.

The race for Bevan Dufty's seat on the Board of Supervisors should also be simmering this summer in a very tight heat between frontrunners Scott Wiener, Rebecca Prozan, and Rafael Mandleman.

State Senator Mark Leno has endorsed Wiener, adding to endorsements from Mayor Newsom and supervisors Elsbernd and Chu.

Four supervisors (Avalos, Campos, Daly, and Mar) have endorsed Mandelman.

Prozan is supported by State Senator Leland Yee, Supervisor Alioto-Pier, and District Attorney Kamala Harris.

In early April, Bevan Dufty, who had been flirting with all three candidates, endorsed Prozan to succeed him on the board. This is the first time a supervisor not eligible for reelection has endorsed a replacement, I'm told.

Says Dufty: "I have worked 15 years with Rebecca and found that she works hard, holds herself to the highest standards of integrity, and shows us that politics should be foremost about helping people."

That's all, you all. Have a great spring, and remember not to hold your breath--summer doesn't come to Noe Valley until at least Sept. 21. Ciao for now.