The Rustic, a beautiful new Italian wine bar and restaurant, quietly opened for dinner service this week in one of the most cursed spaces in San Francisco. Once the site of long-running restaurant Chow in the city’s famed Castro District, the 215 Church St. address later became home to a string of short-lived projects on a commercial vacancy-plagued block.
For eight years, owner Zoti Ali Turap worked front-of-house at Berkeley’s esteemed Chez Panisse, chef Alice Waters’ pioneering California restaurant, as Hoodline initially reported. The Rustic has seemingly channeled that lofty provenance into a continent-spanning menu with snacks like truffle steak tartar and kampachi crudo, along with pasta dishes like rigatoni bolognese or pappardelle and oxtail ragu. Woodfired pizzas round out the offerings, including wild mushroom and mortadella.
Complimentary focaccia, the menu states, is available on request. There is also a broad selection of wines.
With its baby pink, British-style telephone box, sage-colored wine barrels and exuberant starburst chandeliers, the Rustic’s interior is like a millennial fantasia in Palm Springs.
But the address has not been an auspicious one, on a corridor teeming with vacancies. Chow, a beloved and affordable spot, closed in 2019 after a 22-year run, with its sister location in Lafayette folding shortly afterward. Its successor, Cook Shoppe, was open for only a few months before its owner went to jail amid claims of unpaid wages, selling alcohol without a license and other charges.
The space has since sat empty for nearly four years, while nearby businesses like Aardvark Books, Chilango and Crepevine have also shuttered. After the former 24-hour diner Sparky’s across the street languished for five years, plans were announced in late 2021 to tear the building down and replace it with housing.