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At Casaro Osteria in San Francisco, A Son of Calabria Expands His Italian Footprint

A selection of antipasti

A selection of antipasti from Casaro Osteria in San Francisco. Photo: Carly Hackbarth

Francesco Covucci brought Neapolitan-style pies to the Bay Area at his first two Casaro locations. Now, he’s adding pasta and more to the menu at his new Cow Hollow osteria.

plate of pasta with cheese on top
Pasta from Casaro Osteria in San Francisco. Photo: Carly Hackbarth

A few weeks after opening the doors to Casaro Osteria, owner Francesco Covucci seems more interested in talking soccer than food. His favorite club, Napoli, is on the verge of clinching a league title for the first time since 1990, back when Maradona roamed the pitch for the Blues. 

Covucci ties the Beautiful Sport back to pizza, talking about how as a young man, he’d budget to take the train from his home in Calabria to Naples and buy tickets to a match, leaving him just enough for an affordable meal. He’d pay about 3,000 lire for a pie in Naples before going to a match. That was about $2 US. It was enough to fill him up affordably, and the pies from Naples taught him a lesson that has come in handy as he has become a successful Bay Area restaurateur.

“Pizza makes everybody happy,” Covucci says. 

Pizza is on the menu at his new Casaro Osteria, as is a range of pasta, meat and seafood dishes. Covucci says he inherited a Stefano Ferrara woodburning oven as part of the real estate package. The setting also allowed him to continue the mission of feeding people great Italian food at a reasonable price. 

The pizzas start at $16, and the “Al Dente Homemade Pasta,” as the menu reads, mostly hover around $20. Even the steak and halibut main courses on the opening menu are under $40. Covucci says that he aims to keep his osteria simple and affordable. “We want to bring the best of Italy,” he says.

He says he understands the instinct to open restaurants that focus on specific Italian regions, often with higher price tags on the dishes, but he’s aiming for something different at Casaro Osteria. Not that the menu items are basic, of course. Hearing him describe some of his favorites, it’s clear he knows what he wants—and how to do it well.

“We do the Ziti alla Genovese, which is a sauce that is not really known in the United States, but it’s fantastic,” he says. "It’s four hours slow-cooked with onions, with veal and Pecorino cheese, and the sweetness of the onions is great with the veal.”

A table filled with pizzas
Neapolitan-style pizza from Casaro Osteria in San Francisco. Photo: Carly Hackbarth

The pizza stays true to the Neapolitan ideal of a crust with char and a floppy, slightly wet pie. Covucci says that when he opened the first Il Casaro Pizzeria in 2014, his clientele had to adapt to the style, with some customers asking to cook the pies longer. “But soon enough everybody loved it and we didn’t have that problem anymore.”

Listening to him talk about his experiences as a boy in Calabria and Naples, it’s easy to see why he’s remained true to his roots. Covucci is intent on making Casara Osteria appealing while remaining affordable. 

“Italian food should be for the people,” he says.

Casaro Osteria, 2136 Union St., San Francisco 94123, 415-374-7788, casaroosteria.com

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