Locanda - San Francisco, CA 2011 Hospitality Completed

Designing Locanda required a reflection of the restaurant’s reinterpretation of Roman cuisine. Chef Anthony Strong and Craig Stoll spent two months in Rome and its surrounding Lazio region meticulously researching its ingredients and dishes. Back in town, they interpreted these classic food traditions through a San Francisco sieve. Our efforts paralleled theirs in understanding the essence of Roman locanda (Inns), informal trattoria and congenial osteria, combining these influences through a contemporary urban sensibility. In using polarized qualities like loud and quiet, light and dark, modern and ancient, envelope a+d crafted a spatial organization that played with fusing different worlds into the experience of great food. Balancing volume and movement was key in designing a bustling social space; the heaviness of the black walnut wainscoted walls and seated patrons are kept below a distinct horizon, allowing the lightness of the colors, movement, illumination, and aural reverberations to float above.

Stretching from the entry door to the rear is a massive faceted black walnut bar, acting as a binding element joining together the front and back dining spaces into a unified whole. Diversifying this large space seemed critical in extending the casually gourmet trademark of the owners’ neighboring Delfina and Delfina Pizzerias; the front and bar are invitingly informal and open to the dynamic nightlife of the Mission District, while the back submerges into the kitchen, tucked beyond the view of the street and simmering with a focus on dining experience. A heavy black marble and blackened steel communal table grounds the activity of the front dining space, while a white marble clad wait station table creates a center for the bustling staff in the rear dining room.

Gourmet meats are enclosed as precious materials on display inside a suspended stainless steel Guanciale case, joining the kitchen with the rear seating area. As cured pork parts are vital to authentically Roman dishes, we used this exposed case to highlight this importance; cured meats are physically pulled from the view of the guests, and then returned to them cooked, accentuating an awareness of Journal. An imported Italian wood-fired grill takes its place at the front of the cooking line, serving up rotisseried guinea hen, grilled lamb, fish and other foul and scenting the air with the earthy smell of the live fire. As a result the kitchen is neatly folded into the ambiance, without a door or strong boundary the food mingles with guests, its smells and sounds embedded into the experience.

This blending of old and new ideas is also illustrated in the details of a coffered ceiling, recalling ancient classical design and employing a performative acoustic utility for neutralizing noise. Lower absorptive surfaces linger over the dining room pockets, whereas deep cut-outs disperse the commotion of the entry, bar, and kitchen zone. The resulting cubical asymmetry runs into a sort of infinite pattern over the mirrored wall above the bar. Hand-cut white Heath tiles adorning the walls also similarly evoke an emphasis on the line. We assembled the tiles onto the walls with a dark gray grout, leading the eye straight to the angles, creating a beautifully ambiguous pattern reminiscent of both Italian folk patterns and, if viewed slightly askew, Italian Futurist abstractions. The lighting also plays with dueling styles made whole; informally deployed schoolhouse pendants droop down from the hollow-cubed ceiling, dotting the entrance with a toned down classicism. In contrast, Roll + Hill’s retro globe bulb chandeliers cling together in a constellation-like form in the rear dining area.

We envisioned Locanda as a comfortably Californian expression of Rome’s traditional family-run restaurants. We wanted its details to run modestly through the space so that one might enjoy it as a compliment with the food. Our mixture of smart functionality and revered tradition runs through the details of Locanda, unifying the overall design with purpose and history, creating a contemporary space that one can relax into and just enjoy the food.

Images © Cesar Rubio

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