Marcia Gagliardi Recommends Rendezvousing With Your Mistress at Big 4

Photo: Andrea Scher/

Marcia Gagliardi, better known around town as The Tablehopper (or by Eater readers as ‘Lady Hopstress’), knows exactly where you should take your sassy grandmother who likes champagne if she ever visits you in SF. In her new book, The Tablehopper’s Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco, Gagliardi plays “cuisine concierge,” breaking down the vast selection of venues in our fair city by the types of occasions we’re all faced with planning on a weekly basis: a “fun” client lunch, a big group brunch with friends, dinner with your gay uncle from out of town, and everything in between.

Today, she submits to a few of Grub Street’s questions, and tells us just where she might choose to have a secret affair, should that need ever, uh, arise.

How long have you been at this Tablehopping game and where did it all start?
I just had my four-year Tablehopper anniversary, but have been writing about the city’s dining and boozin’ scene since 2003—my first gig was writing for Citysearch. I’ve been acting like a culinary concierge for my friends and family since I got my first credit card (I was always spending my paycheck on eating out).

You grew up here, right? Didn’t your family used to have a restaurant?
I grew up in San Mateo, which is where my parents and groovy grandma (she loves sushi and champers) still live now. Our family had a pizzeria and deli when we lived in Mariposa (just outside Yosemite) for three years, so it’s no accident I love lunch meats. And pizza. I studied abroad in Venice for a year when I was 19, so that had a profound effect on my palate (and made me a fanatic for Amarone, Aperol, and Amaro). And living in Los Angeles for four years was also full of culinary epiphanies: like my first pupusa, for example. Viva Zankou.

My father, Carmen, is Southern Italian, so our household is a simultaneous showcase and test kitchen for many Italian culinary traditions (fortunately he is deeply immersed in salumi-making at the moment, life is good). And my mother, Kathy, is a wonderful cook and baker—let’s just say people get excited when they’re coming to eat at the Gagliardi house.

What do you think SF is most sorely missing, food- or restaurant-wise?
Man, I really wish we had more Greek food here. I adore Kokkari, but I’d really be into some homey/mid-priced Greek joints. And gyros. Where is our avant-garde and high-end Chinese food? I wish we had some Hong Kong flair that way. I’m grateful for Jai Yun, but would really dig more Chinese food on that refined level. Our Japanese restaurants need some tweaking, too: I’m excited for the izakaya direction, but would also be thrilled with some late-night yakitori joints. And good ramen, dammit! I wish we could transport Momofuku and Ippudo from New York here. And enough with the neighborhood sushi joints slinging sub-par and unsustainable fish. Everyone needs to cool it on the unagi and toro. Would love to have more Southern Indian here. And can I just say how much I miss Rubicon? There is no replacement in this town for Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s compelling cuisine.

I know your book lays out venues for all kinds of occasions, but what are three of your ultimate favorite special-occasion places in the city?
If I want to celebrate anything, my immediate go-to is Bix. Bring on the cocktails and caviar pillows and tartare. (Which is why I am throwing a two-martini lunch with the Commonwealth Club there on April 29th.) The dining experience at Coi is blowing my mind—we are so lucky to have that talented crew. And I have to give a shout-out to Zuni—I’ve lived here for 15 years, and have so many special memories at that restaurant. The dining room always feels sexy and energetic. Hello, oysters and bubbles.

If you had to pick a restaurant to have a secret affair in, where would it be?
Heh. I’ll never tell! Kidding. I think the Big 4 is top of my list—you can hide away in the dark lounge over Manhattans, or tuck into a corner booth in the dining room. The bar at Michael Mina is also pretty hot, but if you’re in the industry, you run the odds of running into people that know you.

Marcia will be making a number of appearances to sign and sell her book in the coming weeks. Check them all out here.

Marcia Gagliardi Recommends Rendezvousing With Your Mistress at Big 4