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Snuggled in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach district is a quaint unassuming gem on Colombus street. Steered by Owner and Chef Richard Terzaghi, L’Osteria Del Forno has been a destination for travelers worldwide. Celebrating exquisitely made dishes powered by 3 generations of the blood, sweat, and dreams of the Terzaghi clan. The dining room holds 10 tables, but the real star is the thoughtfully executed food. Every bite promises to deliver mouth watering taste adventures, which makes for a dining experience rather than a meal. Innovative dishes, like the seductive braised octopus carpaccio, will leave you wanting more. The menu is a celebration of the bounty of fresh ingredients handpicked from local farmers markets. L’Osteria Del Forno is a treasure for true Italian food. Chef Richard is full of enthusiasm for his restaurant and the food they serve, it’s a passion you have to have if you’re going to do his job for over 24 years.
He laughs as he reminisces on the years past and dishes cooked, “I have tons of stories. Some of them, I better not tell…definitely not!”
Nonetheless, EnjoyFresh took a trip to the Chef Richard’s kitchen to hear the stories that give this charming restaurant it’s heart.
What got you into the business?
We are 3 generations of chefs. It started back in the 19th century. My grandpa was a maitre d’, he had 4 kids. My dad was included in the 4 kids and they all worked in the restaurant industry and my dad always forbid me to get into the industry, but here I am. I have an MBA in International Trade / Licensing Marketing. I left France and I opened up some restaurants.
It’s about the food and the passion, you know what I mean, and if you don’t do this job as a passion or if you don’t have any experience It becomes ‘a job’, but you see what I mean, this is a work of love and life.
What do you find most challenging?
It’s about the Hard Work. It’s not all about love. You can be passionate, but if you don’t put in 60-70 hours a week, you don’t succeed. It’s the basics. There are so many things going on, between when the plate comes to the table. You have to control the different variables, the suppliers, to the quality of the food, things like that.
Tell us a secret?
The biggest secret is: stay simple and don’t mix more than 3 flavors, that’s my secret. Fresh and don’t mix too many flavors
What do you love about your job?
What I like the most, the food, for sure. I am a foodie. The experience with my customers is always very fun, you get a lot out of it. You share a lot of experiences and you meet a lot of people, you have the chance to serve an author maybe once or twice a year, it’s always a blast. I get to meet different kinds of people, from lawyers, even a president you can serve one day, to a star, you can always meet people.
What drives you crazy about the job?
The consistency of the staff, it’s always difficult, that’s the most difficult part, to have your staff be consistent from A to Z. We’re all human beings, and as a human being it’s not the main thing we have in our blood, being consistent, always going left, right, left. That is I think the main thing driving me crazy after 15 years.
What’s a story you remember from your career?
You know back in the days, when I opened my first restaurant, I maybe had one of the worst dinner experiences on New Years Eve. New Years Eve is always something that is difficult to manage as a restaurant. You have 3 things: seating, people come late…they’re going be drunk at one point, and your kitchen is going to be, just slammed the whole time. One of the biggest stories I have, ended up with my chef in front of me, and he was losing control completely. He had a knife in front of him, and I had a knife in front of me, and that’s how we ended up the night. Knifes facing each other. I was pushing him to continue and he was like, I give up!
He didn’t give up and we succeeded. And at the end, we got a big pack of Coronas,and we drank it together, and it was the end of the story. It can be very… you can have some drama. You know, there are many things in the restaurant business.
What do you think the biggest problems in the culinary world are?
Right now I think we have lost a little bit of control of the produce and all the products we’re using. With all the genetic kinds of things, I don’t think we’re going in the right direction. As a European I’m very close to the ‘slow food culture’, in a sense of really using what needs to be used and using the right products. Right now we are lucky, because we live in California and we get some very good quality products, when you shop for it. But it’s getting more and more difficult and if you want to stay nice, clean, organic. It’s getting more and more difficult with all the pesticides in the products that you get. I think we should at some point, get whatever that we get in a season and deal with that. And the people need to understand one thing. You know, you eat some nice tomatoes in July, August, June, and September; but December, you know it’s not tomato season…so yeah.
What inspires you, what makes you, what drives you in the industry?
Food and my job, that’s the only thing getting harder and harder especially in San Francisco. It’s not getting easy, raised taxes, minimum wage raised, locations getting more and more expensive. I mean we are the first employers of the city, before all the websites, and all the dotcom businesses, and slowly but surely its getting more and more difficult in the city. They don’t think about us, but we are the biggest employers in the city, that’s what the people needs to understand in San Francisco.
What’s your Cooking Philosophy?
Do you have a favorite food trend?
I don’t have a particular food trend, I like a little bit of everything. Living in San Francisco for 15 years, I get very intimate with Latin style, South American Latin style cooking, as well as Asian. I like it, I love the diversity. It’s really diverse, for me I don’t have one in particular that I really enjoy the most. I’m half French – half Italian, so I already was raised with supposedly 2 of the best cuisines in the world, but no, I like creativity. I like when people create, but don’t go overboard, don’t put 9 ingredients in a dish to me that’s a no-no; Just simple…simple, and good, and fresh, whatever the nationality it doesn’t matter.
What is your least favorite food trend?
I don’t like complicated dishes. Sometimes I can get upset with Californian style cooking, where you have too many things in it. That at the end you don’t taste them. I like Californian cuisine don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the trend that I don’t like, it’s just too complicated dishes. They’re not for me. They have to be simple and fresh.
What is one thing you want customers to take away from their experience here?
I hope that they realize that, at least that, we really try to give our best everyday to serve them the freshest food, and to fit it on the plate, and of course the welcoming, the service. I think for a restaurant to be successful you don’t need only good food, you also need good service, hospitality, somebody that has character, and just to make them share something that they’re not going to share anywhere else…the experience. I want them to keep that for the next time they come to San Francisco they just remember L’Osteria.