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November 15, 2022

Come Celebrate: Capo’s Turns 10 This Thursday!

by Joe Bonadio

As our beloved Indian Summer draws to a close, San Franciscans are breaking out the scarves and sweaters in anticipation of another Bay Area Thanksgiving. Indeed, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. While not entirely over, Covid is no longer the crisis it was, and remarkably, we got through the midterms without any of the drama that accompanied the last election. And the city continues its bounce back, with North Beach leading the way. Our neighborhood has more restaurant and bar projects breaking ground than we’ve seen in literally decades, and the raft of openings has already begun to transform the streetscape.

Of course, newcomers aside, this neighborhood has always been defined by  its institutions. Call them standard bearers or call them warhorses, but one thing is certain: these are the places that bring people back to North Beach month after month, season after season. Over the last 13 years Tony’s Pizza Napoletana has become one of them, standing shoulder to shoulder with such figureheads as Sotto Mare, Gino & Carlo and Vesuvio. 

Tony and original Capo’s chef Matt Molina with the cast iron pizza that made Matt a world pizza champion in Las Vegas. | Photo Courtesy of Tony Gemignani

Tony’s second restaurant, Capo’s has been steadily forging its own path at its  Vallejo Street outpost, a mecca of pan pizza. And later this week, the restaurant will reach a major milestone: this Thursday, Capo’s celebrates its 10-year anniversary.

As someone who was around for the opening, it’s hard to believe that a decade has already passed. But it was 2012 when Capo’s debuted, bringing new life to a Vallejo Street space that had once served as home to generations of Italian restaurants.

I had the chance to speak with Tony about the occasion this week, and our conversation is below.

Joe Bonadio: So it’s been ten years at Capo’s! What do you have planned for Thursday? 

Tony Gemignani: Well, we’re going to have Isabel and Facundo at the bar, and there are going to be some specialty cocktails. A bunch of items are going to be $10 for ten years, so we’ll have $10 tavern style pizzas, and $10 mostaccioli dishes. We’ll also have $10 Pabst and well whiskey shots.

JB: Nice. And this is going to be on Thursday? 

TG: Yes, it’s this Thursday night from 4:30 to 9:30. Laura Meyer, Matt Molina and some other people who used to work at the restaurant are going to come. And Jeremy Fish is going to stop by too, because he’s done a lot of artwork for the place over the years. It’s going to be a nice get together. It’s kind of cool to reach ten years. It’s a big mark, especially in the restaurant business.

very first pizza to come out of the oven at Capo's

The very first pizza to come out of the oven at Capo’s, exactly ten years ago. | Photo Courtesy of Matt Molina

JB: It is. Capo’s has definitely followed a different arc than Tony’s. 

TG: Yes. It has a different clientele, very local. It’s off the beaten path. It’s the place that looks like its been here for sixty years, but is still kind of the new kid on the block.

When you look at Little City, Molinari, Palermo, Capo’s, the Bakery….it’s sort of the last street like this. I thought that was important, to preserve it. That  was a big part of why I looked at that location.

JB: What was in that space before? 

TG: Well it was Pulcinella before I got it, but before that it was several different restaurants. The most famous of them in the Seventies, maybe early Eighties, was called Adolph’s. It was owned by Adolfo Veronese, who was related to Joe Alioto Veronese—his dad I believe.

It was a famous restaurant in North Beach. People like Herb Caen would go there, so it was busy all the time. They would do tableside Caesar salad, it was a really old school classic Italian concept.

Tony with longtime collaborator Laura Meyer

Tony with longtime collaborator and former Capo’s chef Laura Meyer, soon to open her own pizzeria in the East Bay. | Photo Courtesy of Tony Gemignani

So it was a cool  spot back in the Sixties, the Seventies, Eighties….and then it was like 20 failed restaurants. So it needed for someone to come in and give the place a little love, change it up a bit.

Matt [Molina] texted me when he heard about the party. “Do you remember when we were painting ceiling tiles?” He actually sent me a picture of the first pizza that came out of the oven today.

JB: Really? Send that to me, we’ll put it on the blog. Matt was the first chef at  Capo’s, wasn’t he? 

TG: Yeah. He came in from Arizona. We’ve had a lot of good people come through that kitchen.

JB: You’ve had two pizza champions as chefs there. 

TG: Yep, Matt and Laura.

JB: It’s got to be satisfying to get to ten years, especially when you look  around and see how the neighborhood has reinvigorated itself—it seems like  everybody wants to open a restaurant in North Beach right now. 

Carlos poses proudly with our Detroit pizza

Capo’s is known for its singular dedication to pan pizza, be it Detroit or Chicago. Here Carlos poses proudly with our Detroit. | Photo Courtesy of Tony Gemignani

TG: It’s funny, people from other neighborhoods always talk down about North Beach, and were too hip to come here. And now, people are coming back to North Beach. It’s funny how people’s perspective changes.

But I’ve got a good crew over there. Some of the people that have been with me since the beginning are still there: Rosando and Manuel are leading the kitchen now.

Festivities begin at 4:30 this Thursday, and continue until 9:30 PM. See you  there!  


Capo’s

641 Vallejo Street
San Francisco, CA 94133
(415) 986-8998
sfcapos.com

 

One of the new leaders in Capo’s kitchen is Manuel aka Flaco who has worked with Tony for over 13 years