SF Eats: SoMa gets Italian grocery with meal kits; Whitechapel adds outdoor beer garden; more

Roma's manager Eric Leve (left) and Chef Daniel Kuuk. | Photo: Roma's/Facebook
By Alisa Scerrato - Published on July 28, 2020.

Here's the latest in SF food news. In this edition, a soon-to-open SoMa restaurant pivots to become a pop-up Italian grocery store; a Tenderloin bar debuts a pop-up beer garden; a popular Mexican eatery debuts a takeout window in the Mission; and Fort Mason's food trucks go dark due to the virus.



Roma's (489 Third St.)

Matthew Leum (left) with Sister Roma, his restaurant's namesake. | Photo: Courtesy of Matthew Leum

Last month, we broke the news that a new Italian restaurant, Roma's, would be taking over the former La Briciola space in SoMa. 

Owned by first-time restaurateur Matthew Leum, Roma's intended to offer classic Italian fare in a welcoming, LGBTQ+ friendly environment. (It's named for Leum's close friend Sister Roma, of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.) 

But with indoor restaurant reopenings still on pause, Leum has pivoted, turning Roma's into an Italian gourmet grocery pop-up. He says it's a natural fit: his father ran a grocery store when he was growing up. 

When it opens on August 1, Roma's will offer to-go kits for making Italian meals at home, alongside handmade pasta from its kitchen and pantry staples like specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Daniel Kuuk (Cotogna, Boulevard) recently came on as the head chef, while a pasta maker from the Castro's Poesia will oversee the fresh pasta. 

In addition to the grocery store, Leum is working on adding outdoor dining. With neighboring eatery Picnic on Third closing permanently next week, the restaurants' mutual landlord has given Leum permission to use its outdoor space, with room for five tables.

Leum said he's grateful for the landlord's help, as well as the help of his closest friends, who've pitched in to support the grocery pivot with advertising and social media work. 

“It's very touching how the overall community aspect of what I am trying to do has come together as we create this space," he said. 

Follow Roma's on Facebook for more details on the opening and to-go orders.


Whitechapel (600 Polk St.)

Whitechapel. | photo: Rose Garrett/Hoodline

Cocktail bar Whitechapel is known not just for its gin-based libations, but its fanciful steampunk-meets-subway interior decor. But with indoor drinking off limits, owner Martin Cate (also of Smuggler's Cove) has had to get creative.

On Saturday, Cate plans to open an outdoor cocktail and beer garden in the adjacent parking lot. Since it's a concrete-heavy space, he's dubbed it the Barbican, after the famed Brutalist complex in London.

The Barbican will serve a full menu of craft cocktails, draft beer and food, at well-spaced tables that seat no more than six people. Once it's up and running, Cate plans to bring in other local craft cocktail bars for pop-ups.

Hours for the Barbican will be 3-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 12-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Follow Whitechapel's Facebook page for updates.


Nopalito (3690 18th St.)

Totopos con chile at Nopalito. | PHOTO: DEANNA S./YELP

As we reported in June, Nopalito has closed its Inner Sunset location (1224 9th Ave.) and moved some of its operations into 18 Reasons, the commercial kitchen owned by (and across the street from) Bi-Rite Market.

As part of that plan, Bi-Rite also gave Nopalito the go-ahead to use Bi-Rite Creamery's soft-serve window (located just down the street from the main creamery)to sell takeout. Now, according to Tablehopper, it's officially open. 

The window has a more limited menu than the original Nopalito on Broderick Street, but diners will still find favorite items like the totopos (salsa-soaked chips), carnitas tacos and achiote chicken salad. There's also a carnitas meal kit to take and prepare at home. 

Order at the window and take your meal for a socially distanced Dolores Park picnic, or get delivery from Caviar


North Beach

Off the Grid (2 Marina Blvd.)

Off the Grid's pre-opening trial run in February at Fort Mason. | Photo: Alisa Scerrato/Hoodline

After being forced to shut down its big weekly Fort Mason food-truck gathering just a week after opening day, Off the Grid rallied in June, offering takeout with a rotating selection of 2-3 daily trucks. The goal was to keep its mom-and-pop vendors going and the food flowing, while ensuring safety protocols were in place.

But after a month and a half, Off the Grid has decided to shut the Fort Mason operation back down, citing low customer demand. 

"There hasn’t been enough demand at this time to make it viable," the company said in a statement. "We’ll continue to ideate on ways to make this work for the community and our creators, so watch this space."

A representative said there wasn't more info to share on what's next, but added that Off the Grid continues to operate takeout trucks in some other Bay Area locations, like the Serramonte Center in Daly City and the South Shore Center in Alameda. Here's its weekly schedule

Seen something new (or closing) in the neighborhood? Text your tips and photos to (415) 200-3233, or email [email protected] If we use your info in a story, we'll give you credit.

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