After Growing Up in the Family Business, Alexander Alioto Seeks to Prove Himself at Seven Hills

Seven Hills (1550 Hyde Street), the new, cozy Russian Hill restaurant from chef Alexander Alioto and business partner/brother-in-law Alexis Solomou officially opened Friday, and early word has it that the food is pretty solid. Grub Street spoke briefly with the 30-year-old Alioto on Saturday, and he says he’s happy with the way most of the food is coming out, and they were pretty well booked all weekend. We asked him about his history in the family business, working at Alioto’s down on the Wharf, and about his Dungeness crab cannelloni dish, which will likely be the first thing we order.

Where were you working just prior to this venture?
Alexander Alioto: Just before this I was helping open the new downstairs café at the Wharf. The upstairs at Alioto’s — I don’t know if you’ve ever been there [Ed. Note: we haven’t] — is more formal. Very touristy for sure. But they wanted to do something a little more casual and less expensive, with simpler food downstairs. And before that I worked at the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton, and for a little while at the French Laundry, and a couple places in Europe.

But you grew up in that restaurant, right? At the Wharf?
Yeah, I mean my first job was as a dishwasher there. And I worked as a server there for a while. But what we’re trying to do at Seven Hills is obviously very different. It’s a little, local, neighborhood place. They do 600 covers a day down at the Wharf and we’re just this tiny place.

You’re making all your own pasta, we hear?
Yes, I’m doing all the pasta. That was something I learned in Emilia-Romagna in Italy, an area famous for its fresh pasta.

Tell us about the Dungeness crab cannelloni.
Well, we just sautée the crab in some oil with salt and pepper, kind of let it speak for itself. And it’s wrapped in a fresh pasta we make a tomato sauce with these Valoroso plum tomatoes. I really love the flavor of these tomatoes, and we infuse the sauce with some sweet red pepper — pulling the peppers out before finishing so you just get a hint of that pepper flavor. And then we top the dish with Italian fontina cheese.

One last thing: Has your cousin Michela [Alioto-Pier] been in for dinner yet?

Has Michela been in? [Laughs] You know, she hasn’t made it in yet. She has a reservation but I can’t tell you when it is.

Note: We earlier stated that Alexander’s dad Nunzio, who’s one of 120 some odd Master Sommeliers in the U.S., had done the wine list at Seven Hills, but he merely served as a consultant. Sommelier Chuck Furuya actually created the list for Seven Hills.

Earlier: What to Eat at Seven Hills, Softly Opening Tonight [Grub Street]
Alioto to Open Seven Hills Restaurant in 1550 Hyde Space [Grub Street]

After Growing Up in the Family Business, Alexander Alioto Seeks to Prove Himself