Chef and restaurateur Jonathan Waxman is best-known for his popular New York City restaurants: the constantly packed Italian spot Barbuto, and the enormously influential '80s destination Jams, which he relaunched as a more casual spot just last year. The original Jams got a lot of credit for bringing California cuisine to the East Coast, but Waxman is soon about to unveil his first project in San Francisco, just across the Bay from where he spent his formative years growing up in Berkeley—and later as a chef at its groundbreaking Chez Panisse restaurant.
Waxman, who makes his debut as a judge tonight on the new Bravo cooking competition Recipe for Deception (premiering January 21 at 10/9c), is in the finishing stages of construction on Brezza Emporio and Pizzeria. The restaurant will be right in Ghirardelli Square, San Francisco’s landmark shopping and visitor’s center, anchored by the history of the city’s original giant chocolate factory.
Brezza will take up one of the largest spaces in Ghirardelli Square and is expected to manage the difficult feat of drawing food-savvy locals into what is one of the biggest tourist crossroads in town, flooded with people in search of Ghirardelli's delicious, outrageous ice cream sundaes. Though the name is similar to Brezza Cucina, the Atlanta restaurant Waxman opened last October, he likens San Francisco’s Brezza to “Barbuto on steroids!”
“It’ll have a wood-burning oven and a wood-burning grill, and the menu will be more extensive than Atlanta,” he explains. The sprawling restaurant, which Waxman hopes to open by the end of February or early March, will be divided into a formal full-service area and informal quick-service and takeout areas, so diners can take their meals outside on a nice day to enjoy the spectacular Bay views.
Or, to explain it in another way, “It’s a three-ring circus!”
Waxman is eager to breathe new life into the heart of Ghirardelli Square and recapture some of the old magic he felt when visiting there as a kid.
“Ghirardelli Square back in the day was a real destination for San Francisco and the Bay Area,” he remembers. “It really was a place you wanted to go. Now, it changed direction a bit, but hopefully I can right the ship a little and turn it around.”
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