North Beach has changed a lot over the past 10 years, and there is one thing that is undeniably better than it used to be: the Italian food. Francesco Covucci, along with his partner Pete Fazio, has been a big part of that change. When they opened Vicoletto on Green Street in 2008, they were part of a resurgence of North Beach openings that included Sotto Mare (2007) and Tony’s Pizza Napoletana (2009). And with the arrival of the pitch-perfect Il Casaro, which took the old Steps of Rome space in 2014, Covucci brought first-quality pizza back to Columbus Avenue.

Now that Vicoletto has finished its run, Covucci is stirring things up once again, with not one but two new projects coming to the neighborhood. The first of the two is already up and running in the former Vicoletto space: Pasta Pop-Up.

Amido's Bucatini All'Amatriciana

The Bucatini All’Amatriciana at Pasta Pop-Up in North Beach. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Here, the menu is simple and direct, with a strong emphasis on pasta. Everything is priced as aggressively as it is spiced: the pastas (there were ten on the night I visited) range from $9 to $14.

I have nothing but good things to say, and I recommend you take advantage of the prices and taste your way around the menu. A couple of standouts for me were the tagliatelle, a spicy tomato sauce with slow braised lamb shoulder, and the arancini (stuffed rice balls, a traditional Sicilian dish). Good arancini are something you don’t see very often, and these are very  good. Knowing my tastes, this could easily become a habit. Likewise, the tagliatelle was rendered carefully, with a perfect level of spice. If the chefs can maintain this level of quality, this place is going to be very popular.


It doesn’t just look good: the Mezze Maniche at Pasta Pop-Up. | Photo: Joe Bonadio

Next up: Barbara, slated for the prime corner of Stockton and Columbus which formerly housed Panta Rei. Covucci took over the lease last month, and tentative plans for the space include pinsa, an ancient Roman variant of pizza that adds soy and rice flour to the wheat, resulting in a lighter, thinner pie. I’m intrigued–and when it comes to the oven, I trust this team will do the right thing.

In the meantime, Pasta Pop-Up is now serving, so step lively. Once people find out what’s happening here, it will be impossible to get a table. And to everyone: Happy Holidays!

Pasta Pop-Up
550 Green Street
San Francisco, CA