The transformation of San Francisco’s Italian favorite, BarZotto

Located in San Francisco’s Mission District, BarZotto is a charming Italian restaurant and wine bar specializing in cal-Italian style pizza and pasta. BarZotto was opened in 2016 by owner Marko Sotto, originally as a fast-casual pasta restaurant. Fast forward to the end of 2020 and the start of a second shelter-in-place, BarZotto was forced to shut down.

It was over the next year that Sotto decided to revive and transform the restaurant into a fully-fledged restaurant, which encompassed a sit-down experience with a revamped menu and integrated offerings.

“The experience is now simple, organized and creative,” says Mere Shabow, Managing Director of BarZotto. “We put a lot of love and attention into how we build the experience journey with our customers through the new menu. We want them to see the creative elements incorporated into our menu design; our trendy, yet simple, interior design by Roy A Hospitality Design Studio; and hospitality integrated into our new team.

The focus on wine is also new for the reopening of BarZotto. To further enhance the wine program and guest experience, their team recently completed a wine training experience in Sonoma County. Their seasoned team makes room for even more thought and curation in how the menu correlates with their wine and beverage program.

Check out my full experience here.

Menu highlights and must-try tires include their Dungeness Crab Suppli; Cauliflower ‘XO’; Pizza with roasted maitake mushrooms; Spicy Sausage Pizza; Strozzapreti pasta with sorrel and pistachio pesto; Barzotto Spaghetti and Meatball Pasta; Gnocchi with morel cream; and Porchetta from the Crispy Rotisserie Market.

We spoke with Mere Shabow, General Manager of BarZotto about the progress of the restaurants; pandemic pivots; and more. Here’s what she had to say.

How has BarZotto evolved since it opened in 2016?

BarZotto opened in 2016 at the helm of restaurant industry veteran Marko Sotto in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District as an accessible, affordable, and stylish “American Pasta Bar.” BarZotto was part of the burgeoning fine-casual restaurant movement just over eight years ago, when it blended counter service with great food and warm hospitality.

We wanted a closer relationship with our hosts and the community. A fast casual restaurant just doesn’t allow for the deeper connection we were looking for. BarZotto has made the transition and is now a full service restaurant with an improved and expanded menu supported by a talented team.

Today, BarZotto is a beloved neighborhood gathering place that recently pivoted its business model to a cal-Italian-style full-service pizza + pasta + wine bar with a seasonally inspired menu and beautiful surroundings. , welcoming and lively.

We still offer quality handmade dough and we now also offer Roman-style pizzas with a bespoke handmade dough developed by celebrity baker Matt Jones just for BarZotto. Executive Chef Nick Pallone has created a fresh seasonal menu that takes advantage of the area’s small local farms and suppliers to emphasize the cal-Italian experience.

We have invested in updating our kitchen equipment, menu preparation, our talented team and a new outdoor food park which will open in July.

How has the pandemic affected BarZotto?

The pandemic has been a learning curve for BarZotto. We had to expand to take out food and deliver on DoorDash and GrubHub. This was very helpful in keeping our doors open. Due to our high ratings, we now have many loyal customers who can enjoy BarZotto from the comfort of their homes and we love providing this service.

We were fortunate to have received a PPP Loan and the Restaurant Revitalization Grant and it has helped us keep our doors open and invest in creating the restaurant we have always wanted. We are not off the hook and are still working hard to rebuild our business after the pandemic shutdowns and truly appreciate the customers who understand and support us now.

How does BarZotto stand out from the competition?

Quality food at an affordable price sets us apart from the competition and creates enthusiastic fans who become loyal customers. The arrival of new talents in our team enhances the experience at BarZotto.

In the future, something new in the works?

Barzotto will continue to rotate our pasta and pizza dishes. Chef Nick Pallone is constantly trying new recipes for seasonal dishes. We are always WOW’d and excited to share them with the community. We are also in the process of building an outdoor food park so that guests and our team can enjoy golden hour and a nighttime experience in the bustling mission district. This allows us to expand our reservations and accommodate people who prefer to eat out.

We plan to add a projector in the house. Presenting Italian noir films and sports games because we want to connect more with our neighborhood and our community. BarZotto also has long term goals to grow and open more restaurants that bring our amazing food and service to other communities that need it.

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