San Francisco based Flour + Water Hospitality Group is known for its top notch Italian restaurant, Flour + Water, and its dough production kitchen, Flour + Water Pasta Shop. Its newest endeavor is Penny Roma, situated within San Francisco’s 20th Street corridor between Harrison and Florida Street in the Mission District. This hot neighborhood destination is a cozy, lively and welcoming spot to indulge on some of the freshest pasta and upscale seasonally-driven rustic Italian fare you’ll find in the city.
Penny Roma’s menu is centered on handmade regional Italian pastas. Classic pastas such as cacio e pepe; tagliatelle alla bolognese with veal ragu, san marzano, parmigiano reggiano and the exceptionally delicious agnolotti dal plin with beef and pork are made using fresh rolled and extruded pastas from the adjacent Flour+Water Pasta Shop.
The menu is divided in to courses and offer a selection of unparalleled Italian cuisine. Popular dishes include market-driven offerings such as pesci crudi that includes hamachi with jalapeno, radish and lemon; albacore tuna with Calabrian oil and pistachio; and the scallop with sorrel and Meyer lemon. Antipasti dishes include marinated beets and roasted squash and mushroom. Secondi plates feature a half roast chicken with cipollini, charred lemon & chile-fennel seed; and a 32 oz. bone-in ribeye. There’s also a selection of contorni made with fresh seasonal ingredients from local farm partners throughout Northern California.
In addition, Flour+Water Pasta Shop has debuted an enoteca menu with dishes and bites curated to pair with wines from the shop and complement the Penny Roma experience. The shop will continue to offer sandwiches, salads and other deli-style fare for guests to enjoy to-go or in the shared courtyard during the day. It also continues to function as a curated marketplace for fresh pasta, pantry essentials and wines.
We chatted with Thomas McNaughton + Ryan Pollnow, Co-Chefs, Flour+Water Hospitality Group. Here’s what they had to say.
You’ve recently formed Flour + Water Hospitality Group — what was the catalyst for that and how is it going so far?
As we were adjusting our concepts and restaurants to meet guest needs and keep our staff safe during the pandemic, it became clear to our leadership team that we were fundamentally evolving, as well. The pandemic narrowed our collective focus and clarified our mission and identity as a restaurant group.
We kept coming back to the same core foundation: Flour+Water. The evolution and decision to rebrand was really just simplifying what we were doing and tightening the experience to feel cohesive. Flour+Water Pasta Shop, which was our heartbeat during the pandemic, continues to be the hub at the center. It’s where our dough production happens, fueling our operations at Flour+Water, Penny Roma and our to-go offerings at the shop.
Penny Roma is your newest restaurant, which is connected to the Flour+Water Pasta Shop. Tell us about the concept.
Like Flour+Water Hospitality Group, Penny Roma was an idea that grew out of our experiences serving our community during the pandemic. Flour+Water Pasta Shop was a way to provide fresh pasta and provisions for locals during those really brutal months, and through those interactions, we found inspiration for what would become Penny Roma.
We took the fundamentals of what we offer guests with the Pasta Shop and transformed them into an everyday neighborhood restaurant serving up classic Italian pastas such as cacio e pepe and tagliatelle alla bolognese. It’s more casual than Flour+Water, and the vibe is meant to feel like a party every night of the week. The design leans into that with the mixed indoor/outdoor space and open kitchen.
There’s a real communal feel, and we love that guests are coming and hanging out all night. That was really the vision here. That folks come by for a glass of wine and some snacks from our Enoteca menu in the Pasta Shop, and stay and have dinner at Penny Roma after. It’s meant to be easy and fun.
What is the inspiration for the menu? Will it be changing seasonally?
The menu is rooted in the classics, so we are drawing inspiration from all regions throughout Italy while also showcasing ingredients from our Bay Area backyard. The handmade pastas are at the heart, but you can also find pesci crudi, antipasti, secondi plates such as a half roast chicken, cotechino sausage and a 32 oz. bone-in ribeye. Dishes will change with the seasons and the ingredients we are sourcing from our local farms.
What makes your pasta so good? Especially the agnolotti?
Like all of our food offerings, quality ingredients are the foundation of the pasta program. We feel an obligation to honor the craftsmanship that’s existed in Italy for hundreds of years, so the techniques we employ for the production and cooking of our pastas is rooted in that tradition. With pasta, texture is as important as flavor and those details start in our Flour+Water Pasta Shop every morning. We think of each dish as layering flavors. The secret ingredient in our agno… a massive amount of nutmeg!
Talk about the expansive wine list. How is it curated?
Our wine director Samuel Bogue is passionate about finding bottles from farm-focused micro-producers across mostly Italy, France, and California with even a few gems from unique countries like Chile or Morocco. The baseline consideration for any selection on the list is organic farming, which is then broken into categories of those who make fully ‘natural’ wines, and then producers that might feel a bit more ‘classic’ in style.
The list is concise, but offers something for everyone with the end goal of providing a more unpretentious and playful experience when selecting a great bottle of wine. We want the experience to feel like a dinner party, whether that means having a few bottles of affordable wine dotting the table, or splurging on some of the rare selections that we have cellared for years in house, it’s truly a list for every wine drinker.