Chef Larry Finn’s Reinvention of Scala’s Bistro

By Kaye Cloutman

There’s a new chef in town and he’s certainly making waves in terms of his innovative approach to an old favorite in San Francisco dining. Meet the gentle and charming Executive chef Larry Finn, who’s taken over the kitchen of Scala’s Bistro. Even with the departure of Jen Biesty and Tim Nugent, who are both considered gems of the local San Francisco dining scene, Larry brings forth a unique Italian menu which people will surely crave over and over again. An American-born chef who recently just arrived from New York working at the Four Seasons Hotel, Chef Larry has cooked in some of America’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Gray Kunz’s Café Gray, Michael Romano’s Union Square Café, in San Francisco’s four-star Campton Place with Todd Humphries and in Patricia Yeo’s AZ.

“It’s good to be back,” he says, “so much has changed from the last time I was working here and the process of transition plus moving a family has kept me preoccupied but we’re all ready to take on the challenge. As for me, once I had them settled, it’s full speed ahead with the restaurant” Chef Larry continued. And what’s not to look forward to? Scala’s Bistro, which is conveniently located within the Union Square shopping area is a must-dine destination when visiting. The convivial atmosphere and the impressive interiors make it a perfect place for a casual lunch/dinner, a business meeting and especially a romantic date. Once we walked in the restaurant we were immediately welcomed by a stellar staff and that evening, we were pampered and guided by a true master gentleman who was patient enough to spend time getting to know our palates and the kinds of dishes which tickled our fancy.

We started our meal with a perfect summer cold soup of Sweet corn & Chanterelle Mushroom with mint; this was refreshing to say the least and was a pleasant change from the typical warm soup we’d come to expect. A lovely serving of Drakes Bay Oysters w/ Fresno chili & white balsamic mignonette followed. This elegant dish was even more luxurious with Gloria Ferrer, Blanc de Noirs “Kimpton Cuvee” from the Napa Valley. What came afterwards was a true delight – a treat which keeps us salivating still to this day. Chef Larry Finn’s Squash blossom pizza w/ crème fraiche came with shaved summer squash, parmigiano and sprinkles of red chili flakes, magnificently drizzled with truffle oil; it deserves a pedestal of its own, because it truly elevated the whole meal. It had all the flavor components a pizza-purist loved. Decadent yet simple in concept, this dish was a winner in our book. Finally, we indulged in a pasta favorite, only this time the serving was just right and the handmade noodles improved the overall taste a few notches higher than what we usually anticipated. The Linguine with manila clams, garlic, roasted tomato, white wine and calabrian chilies was more spot-on in terms of sauce thickness and consistency.

Scala’s Bistro is always a delightful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city and it actually makes it to our list of rare restaurant-hotels which offer remarkable cuisine. With Chef Finn’s enthusiastic desire to reinvent the menu and make it his own, everything is definitely molto bene!

Sweet corn & Chanterelle Mushroom soup with mint

Drakes Bay Oysters w/ Fresno chili & white balsamic mignonette

Squash blossom pizzetta w/ crème fraiche

The Linguine with manila clams, garlic, roasted tomato, white wine and calabrian chilies

Get to know Chef Larry Finn

Aside from the obvious, what excited you most about going back to work in San Francisco?
Quality of Life

How are you liking the local food scene so far?
I have always loved the local food scene in San Francisco because there are quality ingredients almost everywhere you go.

What ingredient are you currently obsessed with and why?
Lemon Verbena, for its floral aromas and tastes. We use lemon verbena oil to dress our Heirloom tomato and watermelon salad on the menu now.

How has your food preparation method evolved over the years?
Less is more. Prep less but more frequently.

What as a chef do you know now that you wished you knew then?
Patience! You mellow with age, like a fine wine.

And finally… who would you consider industry inspirations and why?
Danny Meyer for Hospitality and Gray Kunz for balancing of flavors

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(415) 395-8555