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    Bar Sprezzatura and Fattoria e Mare: Now, That’s Italian!

    By David Landis–

    Italy might well be my (and perhaps your) global destination of choice. The people, the art, the history—and, of course, the food and wine—are like that of no other place in the world. But traveling there, especially during the high tourist seasons, can be a challenge.

    Thankfully, two new spectacular Italian eateries have emerged, one in San Francisco, and one coastside. They both transport you to the culinary offerings of that alluring peninsula nation without the airfare. Their names? Bar Sprezzatura here in the city and Fattoria e Mare in Half Moon Bay.

    Bar Sprezzatura, One Maritime Plaza, San Francisco

    I know this building well, as one of my first offices was located in this stylish, modernist edifice. Chef Kathy Fang of FANG restaurant introduced me to this new find, as it is one of her favorite haunts. The minute you walk into Bar Sprezzatura at One Maritime Plaza you know you’re in for a special, ultra-chic, luxe, and buzzy evening. As you enter from the plaza, this joint is jumping! With all the talk about offices leaving downtown, it’s nice to see a hot and popular gathering spot and watering hole in the Financial District.


    TableOne Hospitality (a Michael Mina spinoff) is the brains behind this enterprise, soon hoping to expand to New York and Miami. This Italian cicchetti (appetizer) and cocktail bar/restaurant is located one level up from the street, looking out through soaring, two-story windows at the iconic building’s plaza and fountain. As you walk into the captivating space, your eye catches the dazzling turquoise, gold, and marble design. Many of the furnishings are imported directly from Venice, and the sophisticated fabulosity shows. There’s even a lovely patio directly overlooking the 60s-era outdoor fountain, where you can dine al fresco.


    Let’s start with the cocktails. San Francisco bar virtuoso Carlo Splendorini oversees the Italian-leaning concoctions (and wine, and beer) with mixology magic. Fans of this column know that one of my drinks of choice is the Negroni. Bar Sprezzatura has honed their selection—four of them—to perfection. The Negroni offerings include: a classic Negroni with Tanqueray gin, Carpana Antica vermouth, and Campari; a Rosé Rosse per te, with Hendrick’s Flora Dora gin, Rosalio bitters, and Chinato di Torino; a White Truffle Negroni with Fords gin, Carpano Bianco, Enrico Toro Genziana, and Urbani truffle cordial; and a Norcal Sbagliato (the hot new drink) with Mommenpop Meyer Lemon, Lo-Fi sweet vermouth, and GF Lemon Sour Ale. I opted for my own tasty creation, which they were happy to supply: regular Hendrick’s gin, Campari, and Cocchi red vermouth. My husband selected the “Captain Barry,” with Buffalo Trace bourbon, and Branca Menta Gentian Amaro, Montenegro—and dubbed it “sublime.”


    Moving on to the food, Executive Chef Joseph Offner (previously of The Trident in Sausalito and the Bungalow Kitchen in Tiburon) has created an exciting and imaginative new menu that bridges the gap beautifully from happy hour to fine dining. Sprezzatura means “studied carelessness,” as if one’s artistic creations happened without effort. Chef Offner’s approach captures that carefree spirit with gusto. Rather than ordering the bigger plates, I’d recommend ordering several different types of appetizers: they’re perfect for sharing, and it helps continue the ongoing conviviality of the evening.

    We started with a selection of super fresh Hog Island oysters (which change regularly), chilled with Prosecco mignonette. The restaurant’s “Tower Experience” is a great way to sample more of the cicchetti, so we opted for that. The Tower included: the Hawaiian big eye tuna carpaccio, enhanced with Castelvetrano olives and preserved tomato. It was a light, flavorful, and promising start to the meal. Other Tower offerings include: the establishment’s deviled eggs, which are anything but normal, topped with Scalia anchovy and marinated sardines; a signature Brokaw avocado, served Italian “toast” style, but with Meyer lemon gel, opal basil and, if you like (which we did), topped with Santa Barbara uni and reserve caviar. It’s a refreshing mixture of land and sea. The Tower also includes: a whipped salt cod with shaved zucchini that was so creamy I couldn’t stop eating it; and the “Forest Floor,” a savory kind of mushroom paté with porcini sformato, glazed Hen of the Woods mushrooms, morels, and Beech mushroom saor.

    Even though they’re not part of the “Tower,” the guanciale (Italian bacon) meatballs are a must—juicy and tender. I’d also recommend sampling a selection of house-curated salumi and formaggi: the luscious mortadella with pistachio was a winner and I’ve never had such a velvety pecorino di Montalcino that practically melts in your mouth. You can also choose bigger plates, including a sablefish, a Wagyu strip steak, and a variety of pastas. And, at lunch, they serve some interesting pizzas, including both a mortadella and a whipped artichoke pie. Go now to Bar Sprezzatura and you’ll see for yourself why Esquire Magazine has just named it one of the best bars in America.

    Fattoria e Mare in Half Moon Bay

    For something still Italian, but completely different, there’s Fattoria e Mare in Half Moon Bay. It’s a delightful half-day excursion south from the city where you’re rewarded with picturesque cliffside and ocean views on Highway 1 along the way. As you enter this burg’s charming Main Street, surrounded by wine tasting rooms and Victorian splendor, you’re a world away. We decided to venture down for a diversionary Sunday brunch. Even though it’s a bit of a schlep, I guarantee, you won’t be disappointed.

    Chef-owner Pablo Estrada has the pedigree. Even though he’s Mexican, he’s worked at some of the best Italian haunts around, including: Lulu, Palio d’Asti, and Rose Pistola. He also worked at Luce Restaurant and was awarded a Michelin star four years in a row. He first opened Fattoria e Mare in the old Kuleto’s space in Burlingame and then decided to expand to Half Moon Bay, closer to the farms that supply his restaurant. But during the pandemic, he closed Burlingame to concentrate on Half Moon Bay. We’re happy he did.

    Fattoria e Mare, which translates to “Farm and Sea,” is a surprisingly cosmopolitan addition to the dining scene in Half Moon Bay. Housed in a remodeled old cottage, the inviting design is a modern coastal vibe, with the airy space dominated by skylights and local art. We opted to dine outside in the lovely parklet on the river, with our canine pals at our side.

    Our repast began with a lovely 2020 Suditrol Italian white wine from the Alto Adige, clean and crisp. Then we sampled a variety of salumi and formaggio, including La Tur cheese from Piedmont, Mimolette cheese from France, Pecorino with truffle, Mortadella, olives, local baby artichokes with peppers, prosciutto di Parma, and more. A smoked burrata followed, served under glass with enough smoke for a dramatic unveiling, yet it didn’t overpower the main dish. Accents included crostini, fava beans, lemon zest, arugula, and extra virgin olive oil.

    Our attentive waiter Giovanni served a mid-course of deliciously peppery bucatini cacio e pepe pasta (not often seen on menus), which was prepared tableside in a parmesan round for stylish effect. For our main, we split the most delicious and tender short rib hash, served generously with poached eggs, potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, and artichokes. The brunch menu also boasts avocado toast with over easy eggs, an egg white frittata, yogurt parfait, huevos rancheros with white beans, and a caprese Italian omelet. For regular lunch, the menu offers up a variety of locally-harvested salads, several types of pasta (including some gluten-free), sandwiches, and mains like a grilled whole branzino with salsa verde. Dinner offers even more choices, including crispy calamari, Wagyu carpaccio, pizzas, pastas, and mains such as a Muscovy duck breast (only available on weekends).

    The cocktail program is notably inventive, with a number of tempting but not-too-sweet options, including: a butterfly pea gin lemon drop; a prickly pear mojito; and “Fattoria in Love,” with Ketel One vodka, Saint Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberry, lemon, and basil. Hideout in Scotts Valley supplies the restaurant with locally-made spirits and bartender Alfredo (formerly with the W Hotel) is the talented mixologist, who creates and serves with aplomb.

    So, make a day of it (or a night of it and Uber home) and head to Fattoria e Mare for a very special Italian meal.

    Bits and Bites

    Globally-renowned Nikkei restaurant Chotto Matte will open its first West Coast location at the newly-developed indoor/outdoor rooftop terrace atop the former Macy’s men’s store September 23 (reservations open September 1). The acclaimed restaurant will feature Peruvian cuisine with Japanese influences and has been a hotspot in London, with other locations in Miami, Toronto, and Doha.

    Dirty Habit, located on the 5th floor of Hotel Zelos, has partnered with the San Francisco LGBT Center and its new cultural department to launch a monthly music series that promotes and supports BIPOC artists from an array of musical backgrounds. The new “Vibin’ Live” music series features live performances at Dirty Habit every third Thursday of the month from 6:30–9:30 pm. Admission is free with a dinner reservation.

    Nationally acclaimed Chef Matt Horn just opened his latest venture, Matty’s Old Fashioned. His third concept, Matty’s is an interpretation of new American cuisine and an “homage to the traditional American diner,” nestled in the heart of old town Oakland. Matty’s Old Fashioned follows Horn’s highly acclaimed openings of Horn BarbecueKowbird, and recently opened Kowbird at The Sundry in Las Vegas.

    Wente Vineyards is celebrating its 140th harvest and uninterrupted year in business. Surprisingly, it’s America’s longest, continuously family-owned and operated winery. To mark the occasion, the estate is hosting a special 140th Harvest Dinner on September 9.

    And San Francisco’s great Gold Alley supper club Bix is celebrating 35 years. They still have live music every night. Congratulations!

    Bar Sprezzatura:
    TableOne Hospitality:
    Fattoria e Mare:
    Hideout Vodka:
    Chotto Matte:
    Dirty Habit:
    San Francisco LGBT Center:
    Matty’s Old Fashioned:
    FANG restaurant:
    Wente Vineyards:

    David Landis, aka “The Gay Gourmet,” is a foodie, a freelance writer, and a retired PR maven. Follow him on Instagram @GayGourmetSF or email him at:

    Or visit him online at:

    The Gay Gourmet
    Published on August 10, 2023