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Dec 2, 2008 06:48 PM

Piazza Market (North Beach) Opening Tomorrow

As mentioned in today's Tablehopper Newletter, Piazza Market, in the old Rossi's Market space on Vallejo, is finally going to open tomorrow (I'm guessing they were waiting for their wine shipment). I saw it all ablaze with light tonight, and not being car-bound, got a closer look than did Marcia and even shot some pics through the windows. It looks like fully half deli, half wine shop with few non-perishables (except wine) in evidence, and enough tables to furnish a small restaurant, The hours are said to be 10-10, so it may be good for a late evening snack.

Piazza Market
627 Vallejo at Columbus

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  1. Looks like it is a branch of Piazza's in San Mateo, which I shop at a few times a month. It is similar to Draegars, also in San Mateo, tho smaller and with less imported goods. Both have excellent produce and meat counters (with real butchers, what a concept). The Piazza in SM has decent take-out food, slightly better than Draegars.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rednails

      I don't think that this is a branch of Piazza's Fine Foods. First, note the difference in names -- Piazza Market vs. Piazza's Fine Foods. Second, I looked up the website and it's different from PFF's, vs. The logo is different and there's no mention of a market in SF on PFF's site.

    2. I'd be curious to hear more reports once you get inside.
      I'm skeptical, and it's already smack dab between Molinari, Little City and Victoria.

      3 Replies
      1. re: sugartoof

        It doesn't really compete directly with any of them. Half of the huge room is dominated by the deli, which serves up cooked, hot food (and salads). No sandwiches, no uncooked meats, no pastries. Although there were several cooks busy cooking in the open kitchen, it's all transferred to stations, buffet style instead of cooked to order, and is self-serve. It's priced by weight ($9.50/lb, whether eat-in or take-out). They seem to anticipate a mostly sit-down clientele, judging from the number of tables. I didn't look closely at the food, but it was the expectable array of salads, starches, vegetables and meats. The menu will change daily. In a nutshell, it's like a Chinese by-the-pound buffet, except that it's Italian and pricey.

        The other half of the space is filled with a wine shop with an impressive-appearing array of bottles, reportedly Italian and Californian exclusively. I didn't bother looking at the labels because they wouldn't mean anything to me anyway. I don't know if they are going to have tastings.

        1. re: Xiao Yang

          Interesting. So it's not the replacement market it was originally touted as? I expected something along the lines of Canyon Market.

          1. re: sugartoof

            It's definitely not a market, it's a classy fast-food restaurant cum wine shop. I hope it survives, if only to disturb Aaron Peskin's sleep.

      2. I live on Russian Hill and walk by this place on my way to and from work every day. Although I had high hopes that when the plywood came down there would a positive addition to the neighborhood, this place is a total disappointment. Rossi Market was horribly-run, and I've always thought this would be a great space for a Bi-Rite type of market (or just a very expanded Molinari's as others suggested).

        The food here looks really unappealing: a steam table buffet at $8.75/lb. I went in with the idea of trying it but couldn't bring myself to do it. I have no idea who they are aiming for here: if it's tourists why wouldn't they just go to a more charming place to spend their vacation dollars? (even if they want gimmicky food they can do better at a place like the Stinking Rose or Calzone's).

        As for the wine, it's all overpriced. There are may better alternatives, which either have cheaper prices (T-Joe's), parking and expertise (Jug Shop) or one or the other. This has neither. Molinari's has a decent little wine selection a block away, and Coit is 2 blocks the other way.

        As for the wine bar, it might be a nice place to stop for a glass of it were in a strip mall in Santa Clara. The lighting is sort of blue fourescent glow, and the paintings on the walls look like a meeting room in a convention hotel.

        Sad that so much seems to have been spent to put together such a dud. Hopefully, the next tenant will take advantage of this buildout and do something more more appropriate to the space and the neighborhood.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Russian Hillbilly

          Sounds awful....and I can't imagine the next tenant isn't going to have to gut the place first. North Beach can be a cash cow, if only someone would decide they want to serve quality, good food.

          I was also expecting a Bi-Rite, or Canyon Market type of place.

          1. re: Russian Hillbilly

            You think the food is overpriced, yet suggest a Bi-Rite????? An expanded Molinari's I can see, but I don't think North Beach needs the foodie pretentiousness of a Bi-Rite. .

            1. re: Xiao Yang

              So you wouldn't rather a bi-rite there then over an priced unappetizing buffet style food with wine bar in a theme decor setting.

              Have you tried it yet?

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                I once was going to buy a fried chicken breast at Bi-Rite and I asked how much it came to: $8 - no joke. I decided I didn't need it.

                1. re: Xiao Yang

                  re: Xiao Yang "I don't think North Beach needs the foodie pretentiousness of a Bi-Rite"

                  Wow ... and Piazza Market doesn't seem pretentious to you?

                  Putting the word 'market' in the name doesn't make it so.

                  I'm not even going to be euphamistic here. Usually when I use the word 'annoyed' I mean 'pissed'. I want to seem like I have a shred of couth here and there, so substitute 'annoyed'.

                  If I lived in the nabe, was expecting any type of market, pretentious or not, I would be pissed ... pissed ... to see this thing there. At least Bi-Rite sellls useful food. How exactly do you see this as being a useful establishment?

                  This is a bad Disney-esque recreation of an Italian piazza. It is kind of creepy in there. This photo on the website shows how the hot food is in skillets rather than an actual steam table.

                  Like Russian Hillbilly, I went there with the intent of buying something and nothing seemed to appeal. The salad bar was just forgetable with some items just on the edge of being tired, but not quite. I like deviled eggs, yet while they didn't look downright awful, there just was nothing appealing about them.

                  Some of the skillet dishes looked tasty enough, bubbling away. Others, like the potatoes just looked tired. I was going to skip it, but then saw there was soup.

                  So I bought a container of the truffled mushroom soup. It was about Whole Foods quality. I like Whole Foods soup well enough. There was a good mushroom flavor and it was thick like gravy. Other than that it was very one-dimensional. It wasn't bad. It wasn't great. It was just good enough and filling. I felt I got my $4.50 worth.

                  Perhaps the truffle made it all kind of wonderful, but I'm one of the two of 10 people who can't taste truffles.

                  It could be ok for a tourist looking to eat on the cheap. The lady in back of me had two slices of meat and one stalk of broccoli on her plate so I'm guessing her tab wasn't high.

                  Glancing at a few tables it seemed like a lot of people were taking mini portions. Can't survive like that. Maybe the wine shop might keep it going.

                  It has the air of tourist about it. It has the feeling of Cellar360 in Ghirardelli ... but at least at Cellar360 I was immediately warmly greeted and offered a free taste of sparkling wine. I didn't wander around unnoticed like at Piazza

                  What a waste of space in North Beach.

                  Anyone want to start a pool about how long this joint is going to last?

                  Piazza Market
                  627 Vallejo St, San Francisco, CA

                  1. re: rworange

                    here are a couple photos - of the interior and one of the hot buffet offerings. it wasn't very busy when i was there - and I have to say that I wasn't enticed by what I saw foodwise.

                    1. re: gordon wing

                      Nice photos especially the interior shot that captures that odd blue sky ceiling. If they put in a few slot machines in there they might have something. It has that Vegas pseudo-location look.

                  2. re: Xiao Yang

                    I certainly agree that Bi-Rite is very expensive. My point was simply that if you are going to use this space for some sort of food "market" I would prefer that the food at least be useful. I'm not so naive to think that at the location there will be much of a break on price. Much as Bi-Rite is overpriced, it does have pretty good stuff and it's convenient if you live in that neighborhood (in the same way that, say, Real Foods is a functional place to get organic food (e.g., Strauss milk) but costs too much and has a limited selection.) In other words, it's a "foodie" convenience store, and convenience stores always charge more for, well, convenience.

                    In my dreams, the Piazza Market space would be a market filled with fresh, cheap, local produce, and reasonably-priced meat, fish, etc. But I learned long ago that my dreams and the price of San Francisco real estate don't intersect very often.

                    Since the place opened (and since I wrote my original comment), I've walked by the place almost every day, and I can't say I have any desire to go in there, and it doesn't look like I'm alone. I think the only hope is that they hire someone to remake the place in a hurry. If not, it will either burn through some family's fortune or close soon. And if it closes, I'm sure that they will just blame it on the tough economy....but honestly, I think this place in its present configuration would struggle in the best economy.

                    1. re: Russian Hillbilly

                      It's basically the product of a business owner without a real concept, trying to appease everyone (landlord, neighbors, city hall) without pleasing anyone.

                      I'm shocked those skillets passed a public health inspection.
                      I don't know who thought a buffet of any type whatsoever,or a wine shop of that size, with that much flashy thematic decor would work. Put it in perspective though - Piazza Market is supposed to be at the foot of a planned Piazza, which will block off traffic from Columbus up to Trieste. Expect a Ferlinghetti Statue (while he's alive), a proposed poets promenade, and an Alioto funded refurb of the older church, bringing in Italian marble, etc. So now picture all that and Piaza Market across the way.

                      1. re: sugartoof

                        Given half the space is dedicated to wine, my guess is this was a business owner who wanted to open a liquor store and took a short cut to getting neighborhood approval by presenting it as a market and deli. From The Tablehopper link in the OP

                        "About a year ago, I reported that Piazza was moving into the former Rossi’s Market space, and is going to be a grocery store that will also offer food for take-out, catering, and there will also be an area for casual, self-service dining. Diners can choose from a number of hot and cold buffet-like stations, and there will also be a large array of specialty foods, and a wine shop featuring Italian and Californian wines. "

                        The large array of specialty foods is a few shelves way in the back of the store. If the joint does make it I'll bet the food gets phased out and it will turn into a wine shop.

                        If they wanted to draw people in they'd have an espresso bar. There's nothing here that says sit and linger. You can't get a pastry or dessert with your food.

                        If they sucked people in there with some coffee, people might actually wander over to the wine section to check it out. Still, sitting at a table and sipping a drink in that awful lighting doesn't seem like it would be pleasant or invititng.

                        1. re: rworange

                          While I think North Beach is saturated in coffee, I think there's plenty of room for some really good coffee, which was one of the great legacies of the neighborhood.

                          Wait... no dessert? Really? That place screams Tiramisu to me.

                          My prediction is it's going to end up a restaurant, since the owner already has a tourist trap at pier 39.... will be fun to keep tabs and watch when they get desperate.