"I'm done. Finito. I'm out."
That was Enrique Guerrero, chef/owner of Mangiamo Pronto!, describing his departure from the downtown Italian cafe that he opened in 2009, a year after he introduced Santa Feans to the same restaurant -- a properly restorative food temple that turns out fantastic housemade pastas, one of which made our list of 100 Favorite Dishes, along with frittatas, thin-crusted pizzas, pastries, sandwiches and salads, all prepared with craftsmanship and a nod toward discerning ingredients. But by the end of this month, Guerrero will be gone, having sold his share of the restaurant to his partner.
Why the exit? "Let's just say I have better opportunities in town," reveals Guerrero, grinning like the cat that captured the canary. Turns out, he has every reason to beam.
In late March or early April, Guerrero will open a new street-level restaurant in the SPIRE, the LEED-certified luxury mixed-use high-rise at 891 Fourteenth Street that will also become the residences of Row 14 Bistro & Wine Bar, Organic Pizza Company and Snarf's (all of which are slated to open in February or March).
Guerrero's restaurant, which is still unnamed, will be a charcuterie, wine and espresso bar hustling housemade cheese, house-cured meats, breakfast pastries, panini, salads, piadina (round, griddled bread that's popular in the Romagna region of northern Italy) and caffeine highs from San Francisco-based Blue Bottle Coffee, which, judging from its lunatic-like popularity in the Bay Area, is poised to give our local roasters a competitive run for their drip. "They use a new brewing system that's amazing, and their coffee is just incredible," says Guerrero. But while he's jived about Blue Bottle's java, he's even more buzzed about his newest acquisition: "I just bought a hand-cranked meat slicer that's bright red, very old-fashioned and very cool, and that's what we'll be using in the restaurant to slice all of our meats," he notes. "The beautiful thing about this restaurant is that it's a lot like Pronto, but it's going to be way more upscale."
The 45-seat space, complete with a patio, will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And then...Guerrero will turn his attention to Uno (that title is tentative), which will focus on the number "one" -- one chef (him); one seating; one multi-course menu; one price; and a downtown address, which Guerrero is safeguarding, although we can tell you that it's near Union Station. "I can't reveal the location just yet, but I can tell you this: It's going to be my food, and I'm going to cook whatever the hell I feel like cooking -- Latin, Italian, Greek, Indonesian, American, you name it."
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The prix fixe menu, which will run between $55 and $65 per person, excluding wines, will be posted online each week, and the wines will change along with the menu. The dinners, explains Guerrero, are intended to be leisurely, so the seats are yours for the duration of the evening. "This is going to be the kind of restaurant where you can spend the entire night enjoying dinner and wine without worrying about someone wanting your table," he says.
If everything goes according to plan, Guerrero will unlock the doors to Uno in late May or early June.