The Bay Area's rapidly evolving dining scene has openings and closings and spaces changing hands seemingly every day. What's often overlooked amid the business hustle and bustle: the institutions that have survived over the years (sometimes decades) and the families (some large and multigenerational) holding down the fort. Here are nine Bay Area restaurant families we can confirm are all worth getting to know — plus an insider secret from each.
Courtesy of Delfina
The Stoll family: Delfina, Pizzeria Delfina, Locanda
Here’s a love story that ties together Italy, Mill Valley and San Francisco: In the late 1980s, culinary student Craig Stoll studied under Bradley Ogden at Campton Place and Wolfgang Puck's Postrio before heading to Italy for a more in-depth cooking school experience and an externship at a Tuscan restaurant, Da Delfina. A few years later, while serving as chef at Frog and the Peach in Mill Valley, Craig met Anne Spencer, the manager of Depot Café across the street. The pair dated and opened Delfina together in 1998 before they married in 2000. They now have a daughter and have since opened four Pizzeria Delfinas as well as the Roman trattoria Locanda two blocks from the original Delfina. Simply put, the Stolls have been the most important restaurateur influence bolstering both Cal-Ital cuisine and the Mission neighborhood.
Family secret: At all locations, order the tripe. (We've tried the versions at Delfina and at Locanda, and we concur.)
3621 18th St.; 415-552-4055
The Stark family: Willi's Wine Bar, Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, Bird & the Bottle, Bravas Bar de Tapas, Monti's, Stark's Steak & Seafood
It's hard enough to open a half-dozen restaurants; opening six concepts over the course of 13 years is practically unheard of. Husband-and-wife duo Mark and Terri Stark are fixtures on the Sonoma County dining scene, creating spaces that feel refined yet casual. Their original, Willi's Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, is still going strong, while Bird & the Bottle opened nearby in 2015. In Healdsburg, Willi's Seafood draws tourists and locals alike for the lobster roll, while Bravas Bar de Tapas a block away is a prime patio and paella destination. They also run the Cali-Med Monti's and Stark's Steak & Seafood in Santa Rosa. Mark runs the kitchen side and Terri is in charge of the front-of-house. When the two met in 1999 both working for the California Cafe Restaurant Group in Palo Alto, did they have any idea this was the plan for the next two decades? Probably not. But these James Beard semifinalists for Best Restaurateur have figured out how to create restaurants with distinct personalities.
Family secret: Mark's advice for couples planning to work together: "Don't do it, unless your spouse is awesome like mine!” Menu tip: At Bird & the Bottle, order the BBQ bone marrow and ask for a mezcal sipper to enjoy a "luge shot" in the bone.
4404 Old Redwood Hwy., Santa Rosa; 707-526-3096
The Duggan family: Original Joe's
The tale of the Duggan family's Original Joe's (now in North Beach) is one of a phoenix rising from the ashes and emerging stronger than ever. A Croatian immigrant, Tony Rodin, opened the original Original Joe's as a 14-stool sliver of a restaurant in the Tenderloin in 1937. Tony's daughter, Marie, and son-in-law, John J. Duggan, joined Tony to expand the brand throughout the Bay Area. A deadly fire in 2007 changed everything for the restaurant. But, the third generation, Elena and John Jr., took over the business, opened a flagship Original Joe's on a prominent corner by Washington Square Park and bought and renovated the iconic Joe's of Westlake in Daly City in 2016. The stiff Manhattans, hamburger "sandwiches" and bow-tied waiters remain at both locations, which are as popular as ever.
Family secret: Order these off-menu items and they say they'll know you've "been around the block once or twice": Calamari a la Joe’s ("fried calamari tossed in our spicy signature marinara sauce and served with housemade tarter and cocktail sauces") and the OJ’s BurgDog ("loaded with Westlake’s special sauce and topped with the works").
601 Union St.; 415-775-4877
The Wong-West-Yturria "family": Bacar, Range, E&O Kitchen, The Treasury
There are biological families that run restaurants. Then there are restaurant families where the proprietors are so close-knit with so many shared businesses, they basically are family. Life has changed since the early '90s for Arnold Eric Wong, Phil West and Carlos Yturria. They are all separately married with kids. But the trio have worked together at some of the biggest names in San Francisco dining over three decades. Arnold and Phil first met at EOS in Cole Valley. Carlos joined the pair shortly thereafter at the game-changing Bacar in SoMa. After Bacar, they went their separate ways: Carlos firmly established himself as one of the leaders of the SF craft-cocktail surge coinciding with this time period; while Phil and his wife, Cameron (they coincidentally also met at EOS), opened the beloved (and recently closed) Range in the Mission. Arnold led E&O Kitchen for many years. Then last year, the trio returned with the elegant but hardly snobbish FiDi bar, The Treasury. Later this year they're opening a casual bar with approachable but exciting chef-driven bites in the old Range venue.
Family secret: Why does this trio of friends click so perfectly as a team? Each fills a niche, just like a family. Carlos runs the drinks side. Arnold is the main food voice. Phil is the restaurateur who can talk food and business. When you meet up with all three, they sure seem like a family — one that has overseen multiple generations of SF dining.
200 Bush St. #101; 415-578-0530
Courtesy of Telefèric Barcelona
The Padrosa family: Telefèric Barcelona
This family operates 6,000 miles apart, tying together similar climates but completely different cultures. Pintxos (small bites) are popular in Barcelona, but 22 years ago when the family matriarch Soledad Urabayen opened the original restaurant, Rondes, north of Barcelona in Sant Cugat del Vallès, this was not the case. Meals in the region were all about heavy three courses (starter, main, dessert). Rondes' popularity soared because of its inventive and traditional small bites amidst a colorful, convivial setting. Soon Rondes grew into a larger, modern concept called Telefèric, followed by a second location in Barcelona and eventually our local one in Walnut Creek led by Soledad’s son, Xavi and daughter, Maria. Regardless of the continent, the signature foie gras and apple mousse is a spectacular bite.
Family secret: The must-order dish is the palpo trufado (grilled octopus with a truffle cream). Xavi says: "The key to this dish is cooking the octopus so that it is perfectly tender while truffle purée melts underneath it beautifully.”
1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek; 925-300-3826
The Sancimino family: Swan Oyster Depot
The family behind Polk Gulch’s beloved seafood counter eatery and market are as much of a local dining institution as their signature Dungeness crab Louie and clam chowder. The Polk Street venue first opened in 1912 by a set of Danish brothers, and Sal Sancimino bought it in 1946. Now the second and third generations greet a daily crowd of locals and tourists who wait one or even two hours for a stool to open up. Sal's sons Steve, Tom and Jimmy gradually took over the venue in the years leading to Sal's passing in 1989. Most days, the three of them can be found behind the counter. Steve's sons Kevin and Brian and his nephew Erik are among the staff, as are Steve's son-in-law Brian Dwyer and Brian's brother Marino. The legendary fare here just wouldn't be the same without a side order of the family's jokes and witty banter.
Family secret: It's off-menu but isn't much of a secret anymore: Try the Sicilian sashimi, for which pristine slices of raw scallops, salmon and tuna get a touch of olive oil and capers to rival similar "crudo" at high-end SF restaurants. It's also a nod to the family's heritage; Sal was born in Sicily.
1517 Polk St.; 415-673-1101
Courtesy of House of Nanking
The Fang family: House of Nanking, Fang Restaurant
For three decades, House of Nanking has been a Chinatown destination. After immigrating from Shanghai to San Francisco, husband-and-wife Peter and Lily Fang opened the restaurant in 1988 as a tiny venue with a handful of seats and an open kitchen by the door. The crowds grew quickly and haven't left because of Peter's cooking; he earned the nickname "One Wok Man" because of his skill for cooking single dishes in a solo wok. Meanwhile, the couple's daughter Kathy is a manager and chef at House of Nanking but focuses mostly on the family's SoMa restaurant, Fang. There, Kathy — a two-time champion on the show Chopped — also makes noodles in-house and serves everything from Famous Nanking Sesame Chicken to more Cali-influenced fare like crispy fish lettuce wraps.
Family secret: Kathy tells us: "We think it’s important to always communicate with each other and spend time together outside of work. We work together as a family, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that life isn’t all about work when it's going 24/7."
919 Kearny St.; 415-421-1429
Courtesy of Blue Bottle Coffee
The Freeman family: Blue Bottle Coffee
Coffee, pastries and love. That trio brought James Freeman and Caitlin Williams together — and summarizes the Bay Area’s infatuation with James’ Blue Bottle Coffee and its affiliated cafes. The two met as vendors at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market (he with Blue Bottle delivering coffee beans to other stands, she as co-owner of Miette Patisserie). After several years of dating, the two married in 2008. Then Caitlin left Miette and used her baking skills to improve the cookies and other items sold at Blue Bottle locations. She famously invented the Mondrian cake and other modern art–inspired cakes for the Blue Bottle rooftop cafe in the previous incarnation of SFMoMa. The couple (now with two young children, Linden and Monroe) are the Bay Area's most powerful force in third wave coffee and continue to expand in New York, LA and Tokyo.
Family secret: It's still off-menu, but the nationwide gibraltar-cortado craze started when Blue Bottle began serving a mini cappuccino in a gibraltar glass several years ago.
66 Mint St.; 510-653-3394
Courtesy of The Altamirano Restaurant Group
The Altamirano family: Mochica, La Costanera, Parada, Sanguchon
After moving to San Francisco from his native Peru in 1994, Carlos honed his cooking skills at some of SF's then-biggest names in fine dining (Rose Pistola, One Market, Hawthorne Lane). But he wondered, where were all the Peruvian restaurants? As SoMa changed and dining became more globally minded in 2004, Carlos and his wife Shu Dai opened Mochica together. (It's since moved to Potrero Hill.) The mini empire has grown to four restaurants spanning from La Costanera on the Peninsula coast to Parada in Walnut Creek and a fleet of Sanguchon food trucks. At home, the family has grown to four as well. Carlos remains the group’s co-owner and executive chef, while Shu Dai runs the business side. Next up is Peruvian food stall Paradita Eatery opening in the Emeryville Public Market later this spring.
Family secret: Carlos says: "The pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken) is a must-order dish at any of our restaurants. It's a quintessential Peruvian meal made with Mary's chicken, traditional spices and our own modern twist. We serve it with french fries and two sauces (huancaina and chimichurri)."
1469 18th St.; 415-278-0480