The one that got away

The architectural imagining of a new soul food restaurant for the Fillmore Jazz District.

A communal table meanders like the mighty Mississip.

Check out these stunning images of an upscale soul food restaurant called Mississippi Blues designed for the Fillmore Jazz District by hot-shot architect Stanley Saitowitz.

“Like the river, a single table meanders through the space — here everyone sits around and eats as a family,” reports Arch Daily.

Unfortunately, it’s old news, says Eater SF: “Last the folks at Saitowitz heard from the project sponsor, it was before the economic meltdown, when they were working on getting Fillmore-area redevelopment funds. If — if! — the restaurant ever happens, we’re told it would head to an empty space right across from Yoshi’s.”

At Vivande’s auction, timeless treasures

At auction: Vivande's equipment and furnishings.

At 9 this morning, Vivande opened its doors to the public for the first time in three weeks. At 11, an auctioneer began selling the furnishings and equipment.

Most of the two dozen people milling around seemed to be dealers in used restaurant supplies, although there were a few neighbors, too. Back in the kitchen was owner Carlo Middione, who had a story to tell about nearly everything he’d amassed during 29 years in business.

Carlo Middione at the auction.

Over his shoulder was a cello, lot number 107. It was a prop at a party he catered honoring the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’d baked 800 sugar cookies shaped like cellos — which he decided must have strings piped on. “Not one string, but four,” he recalled, shaking his head. “After about 100, I wondered, ‘Whose idea was this anyway?’ ”

There was a huge whisk leaning against the brick wall. “That’s a damn good whisk,” Carlo said. It came from Paoli’s at Montgomery and Bush and was used for stirring a huge pot of polenta. A neighbor mused: “Now we won’t have anyone who likes to ‘stir shit the Sicilian way,’ as Carlo always said.”

Three hours later nearly everything had sold. Some of the choicest items — including the big whisk and the lighted cafe sign in the front window — went to Joan O’Connor, proprietor of Timeless Treasures on Sutter Street.

Opening night at Via Veneto

FIRST PERSON | Andre Bolaffi

It was a Friday night in January 1990, exactly 20 years ago. We had been in our new home on Bush Street for five years. My wife Janice suggested we walk up Fillmore to the Clay Theatre to see a French film, “Claudine-Claudel,” about Rodin, his work and his mistress. We went to the 7 o’clock show with plans to have dinner afterward.

The movie was sold out, but we managed to excuse and pardon our way to the remaining two empty seats in the dead center of a front row. After half an hour, I said to Janice — quietly, I’m sure, despite the shushes from nearby theatergoers — “If something doesn’t develop soon, I’m going to leave.”

“You can’t leave,” she said.
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At Vivande, the last supper

Photograph of Carlo Middione by Daniel Bahmani

Suddenly, although perhaps not for them, the owners of Vivande decided at the end of the year to close the restaurant.

After 29 years at 2125 Fillmore, Vivande served its final meal at dinner on New Year’s Eve.

“The decision to close Vivande is based on several factors,” said co-owner Lisa Middione, “but the chief cause is that Chef Carlo Middione sustained injuries to his sense of taste and smell in an auto accident in the spring of 2007. We hoped the problem might improve with time, but it has not.”

Vivande Porta Via opened in December 1981 as an Italian-style gastronomia, featuring authentic artisanal food for take-out and catering, along with specialty products imported from Italy. Restaurant service was soon added, but only at lunch. A more formal dinner menu finally came in 1995.

Vivande became known especially for its fresh pasta dishes. The restaurant also offered special dinners featuring the food and wine of different regions of Italy, but those were curtailed in recent years after the chef was injured.

“Quite simply, Carlo could not be replaced,” Lisa Middione said. “This has led to the fact that Vivande is no longer a viable business, and it cannot withstand the economic impact of the current recession.”

Said Carlo Middione: “We will miss coming to Fillmore Street every day. We have rich memories of the good times at Vivande. We will especially miss Vivande’s customers, among whom we have found many warm friends.”

1300: a saloon with a soul

The lounge, with its wall of historic Fillmore photographs, at 1300 on Fillmore.

By Chris Barnett

His coolness, former mayor Willie Brown himself, walks in around the cocktail hour, making 1300 on Fillmore the first stop on his nightly round of drop-bys to schmooze with friends and cronies.

“This is one of those bar-restaurants that instantly became a landmark of this great city,” says Brown, sounding as if he’s still campaigning.
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At OTD, the wine is on tap

Photographs of OTD by Tim Williamson

By Chris Barnett

The price on the wine list looks like a proofreader’s mistake. But celebrated chef Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame — and owner of the new and wildly popular Out The Door Vietnamese bistro on Bush Street, just off Fillmore — is selling a 2008 sauvignon blanc from Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley for $4 a glass — or $16 for a full bottle.

Just don’t ask to see the bottle. Or smell the cork.

The sauvignon blanc and 11 other varietals flow from chrome spigots attached to sleek stainless steel cylinders connected to five-gallon kegs hidden behind closed doors. It’s wine on tap.

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Celebrities on the street

When in-your-face filmmaker Michael Moore walks in the door with his crew, the usual response is fear. But when he wheeled up to Fillmore’s Elite Cafe on a recent Thursday evening and alighted from a black SUV with dark-tinted windows, diners at the sidewalk tables stood and applauded.

Moore had just come from the Clay Theater two blocks up the street, where he hosted a private screening of his new documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story. The master of the ambush interview arrived at the Elite without his camera rolling. And it wasn’t a surprise drop-in. Someone called ahead and made a reservation for four.

Despite his blue-collar persona, Moore didn’t have a shot and beer. “He ordered a Kahlua and double cream on the rocks,” said Fabian Oregon, the Elite’s personable bartender, who often works the plank solo at night.

“He was a gentleman,” said server Abby McLaughlin. Moore was dressed for the occasion in his trademark baseball cap, black T-shirt and jeans. “He took his cap off during dinner,” McLaughlin says, and when Moore and his party left, “He shook my hand and said goodbye.”


Back home in the neighborhood from the political slugfest in Washington, D.C., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her son — along with her Secret Service contingent — dropped in unannounced for dinner at Florio the other night.

From her table in the back of the dining room, she was the soul of graciousness as well-wishers repeatedly interrupted her dinner. Neither the public nor the politicians drove her to drink: She stuck strictly with San Pellegrino.