Why Incanto's Closing is a Bigger Deal Than Most Restaurant Shuffles
The news that Incanto is closing in a few weeks rippled through the food community when it was announced on Wednesday evening. Chris Cosentino's offal-friendly restaurant was nationally known thanks to its daring cuisine and the chef's multiple appearances on Top Chef, and its closing on March 24 marks the end of an era in San Francisco. (At least to those of us who follow restaurants the way others follow sports teams. I mentioned the restaurant's closing to a friend who wasn't in the food world; he'd never heard of it.)
But of course that doesn't mean that the 12-year-old restaurant didn't have an impact. Paolo Lucchesi wrote a thoughtful piece in the Chronicle about why Incanto mattered: Not only did it popularize the bits of animals that people weren't eating as much, it was also one of the first to offer complimentary filtered water (flat and bubbly), have an all-Italian wine list, and offer medical benefits to employees. And its impact on the popularization of offal -- the heads, tails, brains, glands, innards, and other piddly animal bits -- can't be overemphasized.
Don't worry, though, Costenino's not decamping for New York or anything like that. As he and co-owner Mark Pastore explained in a very sweet blog post, they are simply changing their restaurant's name and concept. The new Porcellino, coming late spring, will be a more casual, neighborhood-y affair. It will have meats from the team's Boccalone available in sandwiches and at the on-site market, and at night it will have bowls of pasta and salads, Italian comfort food. Cosentino's also working on a restaurant to in the former Zuppa space in SoMa -- details on that are still sketchy, but it's safe bet that it will be interesting.
Even with exciting things on the horizon, it's hard to avoid getting nostalgic for a restaurant that's made such a mark on S.F.'s dining landscape. But even worse would be if Incanto kept on truckin' beyond its owners' -- and the neighborhood's -- interest. So we can look forward to the new place(s), and the fact that its owners never compromised. In the words of Cosentino and Pastore:
"Looking back, our greatest sense of accomplishment is that Incanto has been a restaurant that has always stayed true to its own point of view, no matter where it led us."
As long as that vision is good, that's all we can ask.