C California Style

Nayfeld and his pit bull, Cassidy.
CHE FICO’s albacore tuna conserva with baby artichokes, Taggiasca olives, caper berries and lemon aioli.
The private dining room features a 16-seat reclaimed valley oak table from co-owner MATT BREWER’s family farm in Glen Ellen and a collage of vintage album covers from Italian pop singer ADRIANO CELENTANO.

Delicious Simplicity

by C California Style

Chef David Nayfeld gets back to basics with the Italian-focused Che Fico

After a career that took him through the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park and Joël Robuchon, David Nayfeld fully expected to open his own formal restaurant. “I was hook, line and sinker into fine dining,” he says. “It was the only thing I wanted to do.” But after this talented chef returned home to the Bay Area, something changed. Food that, as he puts it, “bangs you over the head with crazy maneuvers” lost its appeal, and the places that made him happiest were neighborhood spots, such as Zuni Café and Nopa, where dinner is served with utmost care but very little fuss. Now, along with co-owner Matt Brewer, Nayfeld has opened Che Fico, an open-beamed Italian restaurant in San Francisco’s NoPa neighborhood. His menu focuses on classics—pizza, handmade pasta, salumi, wood-roasted meats—that, done well, require skill and attention. Nayfeld estimates it took 100 formulations to develop his pizza, made with a natural sourdough that he bakes in a wood-fire oven lower and slower than most. And because he wants every last bite to be delicious, he flocks the edges with grated Parmesan (the inspiration: cheesy stuffed-crust pizza). One pie is topped with thin-sliced pineapple and fermented chili. And another, with tomato sauce and ricotta salata, is a tribute to Judy Rodgers, Zuni’s founding chef. 838 Divisadero St., S.F., 415-416-6959; chefico.com.

Photography by DOUGLAS FRIEDMAN.


This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of C Magazine.