Delarosa opened late last year in the Marina district of San Francisco, a neighborhood long known more for bar hopping than dining. It’s a casual all-day restaurant serving moms and kids in the day, couples and groups in the evening, and it features an exciting beverage program with interesting beer, wines and classic cocktails. The lively bar remains jam-packed well into the night, and the restaurant is conveniently open until 1 a.m. if the bar patrons get hungry, which qualifies for late-night in the Bay Area. The demographic is generally young, and the atmosphere is clean and modern, allowing for a smooth day to night transition.
The dining room features long, communal tables that foster a boisterous and buzzing energy. It’s a cleanly minimalist but bright and airy space with a focus on Italian wines and varietals—with most bottles in the $35 to $55 range—and per-glass prices hovering around $10. One of three partners in the restaurant, Deborah Blum, specifically chose wines that would pair with pizza and tomatoes, “nothing that would drown out the food.”
There is no cabernet sauvignon, but instead red wines like Nebbiolo Langhe Cascina Ca’Rossa, $46, and a Barbera d’Alba Serra dei Gatti from Piedmont for $39. You’ll also find whites like Prosecco Carpene Malvoti from the Veneto, $32, and lesser-known and food-friendly Southern Italian wines such as Di Meo Fiano di Avellino for $54 and Falanghina Vinosia for $35, both from the Campania region around Naples.
The beer program is spearheaded by Rich Higgins, one of less than 75 “certified cicerones”—or beer sommeliers—in the United States. The certification program signifies proven expertise in selecting, acquiring and serving the widest possible range of beers. Master or certified cicerones successfully complete a training program with subjects that include the history, characteristics and flavor attributes of individual beer styles and food pairing, in addition to proper storage and service.
At Delarosa, Higgins offers 14 bottles and 14 draft choices priced from $5 for Trumer Pils on draft to $24 for a 750 ml. bottle of Castelain St. Amand, a French country ale. Each beer was chosen with the menu in mind. For example, with the Funghi Misti pizza, he suggests Le Merle, an earthy, herby, lemony saison from Ft. Bragg, Calif. The beer’s earthiness harmonizes with the mushrooms and the fontina, and its acidity and herbal notes punch up the tomato and thyme.
The beer list does indeed represent a wide variety of regions and styles. “That variety makes it fun to experience a new food that people think they understand,” says Higgins. “An unfamiliar beer can redefine the pizza.” Higgins wanted to include local beers, but also uncommon ones and more exotic imported beers such as Duchesse de Bourgogne, a fruity and spicy Flemish red ale on draft for $9. All beers are described using three flavor descriptors such as “toast, cedar, herbs” or “honey, apple, floral.” The result is an exciting and yet approachable menu.
Unlike the beer and wine selection, which is designed specifically to complement the food, the cocktails are strictly in the classic camp, says beverage director Lane Ford. All drinks are priced at $9 each, tax inclusive, with the exception of Swedish Punch. Punch is an economical option for both the bar and its patrons; their version is a combination of rum, brandy, Batavia Arrack, pineapple, lemon, black tea and prosecco, and it is priced at $5 a glass. Balance is key, and there isn’t a drink on the menu that doesn’t include a splash of bitters or some fresh citrus. This suits a younger, less brand-loyal audience willing to try something new, says Ford.
The menu focuses on well-executed classic Italian thin crust pizzas such as Margherita, $11, Prosciutto di Parma, $15, and Funghi Misti, priced at $14, as well as antipasti, panini and three different pastas and salads.