Ancora is the San Francisco Mission District’s newest seafood restaurant. This elevated concept is the first restaurant from Executive Chef Nick Anichini, formerly chef de cuisine at Atelier Crenn. Combining his previous decade of experience working in the fine dining world with the network and passion for fresh seafood of Water2Table founders, Joe and Andi Conte, he opened Ancora.
Italian for “anchor” Ancora seeks to connect local restaurants and fishermen and women, allowing Chef Anichini with direct access to San Francisco’s docks to source fresh-caught fish for Ancora’s daily-changing menu.
“Ancora’s partnership with Water2Table is unlike other seafood restaurant in the city. We’re able to source seafood directly from local fishermen and women, allowing us to cook fish caught that morning the same night in the restaurant,” says Executive Chef Nick Anichini. “We’re so proud to be a part of San Francisco’s incredible seafood scene and in such great company, from Angler to Le Fantastique and landmarks like Portofino and Scoma’s.”
Diners can choose from a selection of seafood caught that day, highlighting common varieties typically found along the California coast, like the roasted halibut rack with preserved porcinis and chermoula and anchovy pan con tomate. Other highlights include spot prawns with sea urchin butter and plankton tagliolini with white sturgeon caviar.
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Talk about your relationship with Water2Table and how that relationship started at your previous job as chef de cuisine at Atelier Crenn.
I’ve worked with Water2Table for years, ever since I started working in restaurants in San Francisco. We’ve always had a great relationship, and I got to know Water2Table owners Joe and Andi Conte through their supply relationship with Atelier Crenn, where I was chef de cuisine. When they approached me with the idea of a restaurant that would showcase our shared commitment of hyper-local fish and passion for seafood, we shared a similar vision for what that could look like, and that vision become Ancora.
Do you work with any other regional partners? If so, who and what is the partnership?
I have strong relationships with other fish suppliers, but the partnership with Water2Table is our priority. Joe and Andi constantly provide incredible quality fish to great chefs throughout the Bay. We also get our produce from local farms like Tierra Farm, Heirloom Organics, Dirty Girl, Fully Belly Farms, and Blossom Bluff, to name a few. It really boils down to the access our kitchen has through Water2Table and the bounty of produce that grows in Northern California.
How did you come up with the vision at Ancora? What was the catalyst in you going on your own to open this upscale seafood restaurant?
I always wanted to open a fish-forward restaurant that focused on people being able to interact with food in a no-fuss way. The only part missing from my plan was a direct connection to the boats, and serendipitously, when Joe reached out about opening a restaurant, we had nearly the same exact vision for what that restaurant would look like. We both wanted to emphasize delicious food, seafood specifically, where guests were able to choose their own adventure through the menu.
What’s the inspiration for the menu? What would you call this cuisine? What are some fan favorite dishes?
The menu is heavily seafood focused, drawing on fish and produce that’s local and in season. We wanted to get back to the art of cooking – fire to pan, glazing, searing – where we’re inspired by natural flavors and letting the ingredients drive each dish. Our inspiration is always to treat the product well and make it as delicious as possible without too much fluff.
The halibut rack is a dish we opened the restaurant with, and has remained popular among guests. It’s the perfect example of the ‘choose your own adventure’ mentality we’ve worked to create, with all the fixings that come with the halibut – the grilled garlic bread, the sausage, and the pepperonata. The Plankton Tagliolini with caviar is another fan favorite, where we incorporate plankton from Veta la Palma, an aquaculture facility in southern Spain, into the eggs used to make the tagliolini, then finish it with heaps of white sturgeon caviar and bottarga.
What sets seafood native to the San Francisco Bay and the California coast apart?
The oysters stand out the most to me. Oysters in the Bay Area have an obvious fruitiness that you don’t get from the classic, briny East Coast oysters. Black cod is also something unique to the West Coast. I could never get it when I lived in Chicago, so it’s exciting to be able to cook it now, and the same with Pacific halibut. That’s the beauty of Ancora’s menu and mission: we want what we’re serving to be as local as possible.
How has the reception been since opening in July? What do you hope the next year has in store for Ancora?
The restaurant has been very well received so far. We’re busy with awesome reviews coming in from diners. It means a lot to our team to see industry guests come in to enjoy our food. We’re lucky that we’re where we want to be and plan to keep the momentum moving.
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