Bar Bambino Owner: Valencia St. ‘Vortex of Transformation’ Hurt Business

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After six years of serving highly rated food and wine in the Mission, Bar Bambino is set to close, and owner Christopher Losa says the concentration of new restaurants on Valencia Street is partly to blame.

“The decision to close was a lengthy, gut-wrenching decision I had to make,” said Losa. “It’s one of the most painful and difficult decisions I’ve made in my life.”

Losa said the decision finally came down to the volume of restaurant-goers. Despite restructuring the business earlier this year to succeed with a lower volume of customers, Bar Bambino continued to have more down weeks than up.

He told his 25 employees last Friday that the restaurant would be closing.

The restaurant, at 16th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, serves northeastern Italian and central European food and wine and has been highly rated since it opened in 2006. But Losa said the saturation of new restaurants on Valencia Street has impacted foot traffic on 16th Street and drawn customers away from Bar Bambino.

“Our location is being left out of this vortex of transformation on Valencia Street,” Losa said.

Yet he has faith that 16th Street will see its own transformation in the future – even if it will be too late for Bar Bambino.

“I put my stake on 16th Street six years ago and I still believe in that neighborhood,” Losa said. “I think there is going to be a great transformation for that area.”

The restaurant will serve its final meal on New Year’s Eve.

“There’s certainly a psychology around New Year’s about starting new and starting fresh,” said Losa.

Losa said goodbye to the Mission community in an open letter:

New Year, New Adventures

This New Year’s Eve, 31 December 2012, will mark the final night of service for the Bar Bambino family. We have had an amazing run and have a nearly countless list of successes and accomplishments that I could list off. We created, what nearly 6 years on, remains one of the most beautiful restaurants in San Francisco. We created design trends that persist today. We established a point of view in our menus and our approaches that have been replicated and copied throughout the Bay Area. We have an excellent reputation for quality of food and quality of service. We have received enviable press accolades.

Most importantly it is the gratitude of guests, the community, and our suppliers that is, far and beyond, the most rewarding. The rewards of daily receiving a note, a handshake, a kiss on both cheeks telling me of an “amazing experience” or “thanks for being in the neighborhood” never, ever gets old and is one of the most humbling, gratifying, and exceptional experiences of my life. It is a feeling that is only surpassed by the feeling of group hugs with my wife and four year-old daughter … something that this business, in this City affords too little time for and something I look forward to doing much more of in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Until then, please come support us – me, my family, my amazing staff (past and present) – and bask in the glow of our oasis on 16th Street. For the next two weeks, we’ll continue to do what we do best while reminiscing about our amazing times together. And for a lucky 100 or so guests, we will be open New Years Eve. We will be celebrating as we look toward new adventures. We’ve opted to serve our regular menu in order to relive some old favorites and focus on doing what we do best, so make your reservation soon to help us toast a fond farewell.

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Christopher Losa
Proprietor + Wine Director

12 Comments

  1. valé

    I went there once & I probably would have gone at least a couple dozen more times … but with the price of their food and mediocre service there is much better fare/fair to be had in this city.

    • nicole

      agreed! i thought the service was horrible and the food was really mediocre. poor attitude + ‘ok’ food = not a return patron. i don’t think it has anything to do with whats happening on Valencia; i think it’s more about their location which is super sketch and not really offering anything that would make me want to return. Even if the food was meh, i would return if the service was superior but……..

    • It’s one of the most expensive wine bars in the city, and that’s really saying something. It might have worked in Nob Hill, but at 16th and Mission? WTF were they thinking?

      • randolph mortimer

        They were probably thinking that the gentrification would spread down to Mission from Valencia, but they were about 20 years too early – it will take at least that long for the city to get serious about addressing the issues at 16th and Mission, if they ever do.

  2. Dave

    I loved the place.

  3. Joe Wiley

    Buh-Bye

  4. Benjamin

    I loved this restaurant — the food was fantastic, especially the rabbit and ribbon pasta. The wine was accessible and the staff was gracious and pleasant. I have such great memories of the back patio.

    It’s unfortunate the gentrification for that block never happened. It was always a dicey proposition. Too many drunks, freaks and Thriller video actors.

  5. This is our favorite place. The food, atmosphere, service, location, everything. I was there in the very beginning and through the years we’ve celebrated countless occasions there.
    You will be sorely missed my friends! Sorely missed.

  6. Missioner

    Nice place, but the business model obviously didn’t work for whatever the reasons…food, location, service.

    This is another example of letting the Free Market decide. i.e., Don’t legislate the number of restaurants on Valencia St. The market will decide when there are enough, and which ones are good enough to persist, and when a retailer instead of restaurant is better.

  7. Christine

    This bums me out. I live a block from the place and genuinely enjoyed having a upscale restaurant on the block, even if its fancy-ness kept me from walking in and checking out the menu. If I was in town right now, I would eat there one last (first) time before they close.

  8. Dave

    I really wanted to like this place, and based on a recommendation, convinced a group of friends to go there. Sadly, the service was quite bad, and it was quite expensive. Thinking that perhaps we ordered poorly, I went back a few weeks later, and again, had a very mediocre and expensive experience.

  9. shemp9999

    Weepy capitalist finds capitalism eats its weaker members.

Comments are closed.