Fiorella On Polk Street Is A Welcome Addition To Neighborhood

Fiorella on Polk Street

Photo Credit: Grace Sager

Sometimes restaurant dreams do come true. When Fiorella, Boris Nemchenok and Brandon Gillis’ excellent Italian eatery opened in the Richmond a couple of years ago, I thought, “I wish a place like this would open in my neighborhood.” Lo and behold: the team has recently debuted a second location near my house on Polk Street between Green and Vallejo in Russian Hill.

The now-iconic wallpaper covers one of Fiorella’s walls

Photo Credit: Grace Sager

In many ways, Fiorella 2.0 is just like Fiorella 1.0. There is a long counter with bar seating that overlooks a semi-open kitchen. Crowded two- and four-seat tables, simply adorned with no tablecloths, fill the rest of the space. Melinda Turner, who designed the clean minimal Clement Street Fiorella, also created the interiors for the Polk Street restaurant. She tapped Brooklyn-based wallpaper makers, Flavor Paper, to custom create Fiorella’s now iconic and highly Instagramable wallpaper. The blue and white print features Bay Area icons like Alice Waters and Joe Montana.

Seasonal crostini with burrata

Photo Credit: Grace Sager

The food is hearty and classic Italian fare. Chef Eli Franco excels at everything from interesting seasonal appetizers to rich flavorful pasta. The dishes aren’t pretentious or overly fussy. It’s solid and scrumptious cuisine that you’ll crave regularly. The arancini changes often—on a recent visit the pillowy rice balls featured spring peas, pecorino, and fontina with a Meyer lemon aioli—as do the antipasti starters that highlight the bounty of the season. Think wood roasted asparagus, little gem salad with early summer squash, and fava with spring onion and ricotta. 

Fiorella’s mortadella pie

Favorites that you’ll always find on the menu include the superb herbed chicken wings, deep-fried deliciousness that are doused in garlic, lemon, and herbs and come with a tangy housemade ranch; the spaghetti alla cacio e pepe, a simple but sublime pasta coated in a cheesy, buttery black pepper sauce; and the spicy salami pizza with crispy, chewy dough, tomato sauce, rounds of salami, and provolone picante. It’s also worth noting that Franco makes an amazing burger that’s only served on Tuesday nights. With a thick house made sauce and creamy melted cheese, it’s to die for. 

Photo Credit: Grace Sager

Wine director Chris Tarbell is behind the wine list which offers diners Italian and California bottles and quartinos (eight ounce pours) along with low-ABV cocktails. The California labels are lesser known producers like Bokisch, who makes Albariño in Lodi, and Melville, a Santa Rita Hills producer of Syrah. The list is a great starting place to learn more about Italian varietals. Ask the sommelier for a crash course, and you’ll be taught the difference between Falanghina and Fruilano and what characteristics make Teroldego unique.

Dinner at the bar makes a great date

Photo Credit: Grace Sager

All in all, the new Fiorella is the ideal neighborhood restaurant, a place where the friendly staff gets to know your name, the atmosphere is inviting and lively, and the food is delicious and satisfying. I’m thrilled to say welcome to the area!

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