A family-run restaurant exits 24th Street – gladly

Montella Pizzeria, 3161 24th Street. Photo by Lola M. Chavez

After just a year-and-a-half in its 3161 24th St. storefront, the family-run Montella Pizzeria is set to close its doors in July, and moving into its place will be Korean bar and restaurant Foxsister by San Francisco Chef Brandon Kirksey.

Gustavo Lopez, son of Montella’s proprietor, Esteban Lopez, said that while business on 24th Street corridor was good, the family has decided to exit the restaurant business to pursue other endeavors.

“We’ve been in the business a long time and to be honest with you, we are just kind of tired,” said Lopez, who has been involved in the family business since he was six years old. His father has been in the business for some 40 years and is looking to retire.

“We gave it a year to see how we felt but it’s just not working out for us,” he said. His father declined to comment.

Taking over the space is  first-time restaurateur Kirksey, the former chef de cuisine at the upscale Vietnamese restaurant Slanted Door.

Kirksey has had a previous stint in the Mission, at Flour + Water at 20th and Harrison streets. David Steele, the founder of that restaurant, is now lending his expertise to Kirksey as a consultant to Foxsister.

Kirksey said that Montella’s space lends itself to his envisioned cozy-neighborhood-bar-serving-Korean-food concept.

“I want it to be approachable and affordable,” said Kirksey, who will take over the space with a 10-year-lease in July with plans to open as Foxsister sometime in September. “We want to create a fun environment for people in the neighborhood to come in, drink beer and Soju cocktails and slushies,” he said.

Most recently, Kirksey has been serving up Korean food at a pop-up series for Feastly, and online platform connecting cooks and diners in various venues.

He hopes that his first restaurant in the heart of the Mission will capture some of the the street’s “vibrant spirit.”

With the Montella space recently renovated, the physical build-out will be minimal, said Kirksey.

“We will put our brand and style on it, which is a cozy neighborhood bar,” he said. Kirksey promises cheap beer pitchers, a selected list of hard-to-get Asian beers,  and creative Soju concoctions. The bar and restaurant will have several TV screens streaming sports games.
The restaurateurs’ transition seems to be amicable. “I couldn’t be happier to move to 24th Street,” said Kirksey – while the Lopez’ are happy to get out.

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17 Comments

  1. It’s unfortunately this new restaurant does not fit into the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District and we will not be supporting. Through our out reach to the community 3 years ago, it was very clear that the local community do want not Calle 24 to turn into Valencia St.

    • kristen panti

      Yes, I agree. I thought the whole point of the Special Use District is that new businesses would not be overt gentrifiers–with roots in “upscale” restaurants catering to high net worth individuals. This place seems to be exactly that.

    • Mike Ponse

      Please tell me why it doesn’t fit

      • Amber Terán

        Because this is the heart of the Latino Community and does not fit the our Latino culture that is fighting to be here and is being pushed out right now.

  2. The restaurant sounds like a great idea but not for 24th St. It is the heart of the Latino Community and this restaurant does not represent the culture at all. If people want the Mission to stay full of art culture music and vibrancy then keep it with businesses that fit.

  3. Michael Andrade

    I will not be supporting this new business because it does not fit into the community. We don’t need another hipster restaurant.

  4. Sally yu

    … and keep it an empty storefront.???

  5. Gemma Jones

    a cozy neighborhood bar with cheap beer pitchers and Korean food is not quite overt gentrification; sounds more like certain people are not welcome on 24th St

  6. KATHY LIPSCOMB

    THIS KIND OF RESTAURANT DOES NOT FIT IN WITH THE INTENTIONS OF THE CALLE 24 LATINO CULTURAL DISTRICT. IT’S GOING TO BE PRICEY AND FANCY. A CHEF FROM “SLANTED DOOR” SAYS IT ALL. PROBABLY DELICIOUS, BUT WILL QUICKLY BE OUT OF PRICE RANGE OF PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN MISSION. LET’S TRY FOR A MORE DOWNHOME PLACE.

  7. Sorry to hear that Montella Pizzeria will be closing. The food was delicious and fresh. The service was very Family Friendly.

  8. Rose Arrieta

    It is unfortunate that Montella Pizzeria is closing. It’s a very family friendly restaurant with reasonable prices and good food. Just the kind of place we need on 24th and not a class-driven upscale restaurant that will clearly cater to a different clientele. I doubt a working class family of four or five will be able to afford going there. We have to have an alternative vision of community development that centralizes the interest and needs of working-class communities of color — this ultimately creates a healthier and more sustainable neighborhood. Inequality and inaccessibility comes in many forms – this restaurant mirrors what gentrification is: a profit driven racial and class reconfiguration of urban working class and communities of color. Gentrification looks like this: a change of the character & nature of neighborhoods, the wiping out of institutions and businesses being replaced by high end bars, restaurants, whose pricing structures are out of reach of longtime residents. It looks like this and so much more.

  9. Wendy Bardsley

    Two important questions for me are: what is affordable? and how many bars do we need on 24th Street? Part of what makes it so “vibrant,” is that you can have dinner for two at most places for around $20, and families are comfortable there. There are all kinds of businesses, not just restaurants and bars. The use of “cozy-neighborhood-bar-serving-korean-food-concept” in this article is a gentrification red flag for me. I love the fact that so many of the businesses I have frequented for years are family-owned and family friendly, and it’s a big part of what makes Calle 24 so special. It’s such a great blend of different kinds of businesses. I’ve lived here when there were too many bars, and I don’t want to see that again. I agree with Rose’s comment. It’s a delicate balance. One super hot restaurant, other upscale businesses want in, and rents get jacked up beyond what long-time businesses can afford. I don’t want to lose our produce markets, like they’ve been lost elsewhere in the Mission.

  10. Paul

    I can’t wait for some real food on an otherwise pretty lousy stretch of sub-par, indifferent, dingy, and cookie-cutter “Mexican” restaurant row. I avoid the street because it sucks, but maybe this will give me a reason to spend my money locally.

  11. Alex

    The young owner harassed by messaging me on Yelp, after leaving a negative review on Yelp a few months ago. I decided to delete the review because I didn’t want it to turn into something else. I figured they can succeed or fail within their own merits. To be honest, this place wasn’t that great and it was bound to happen. I don’t care if the new owners are Korean, Mexican, or whatever… what I want is great food and people that are not arrogant and impolite.

  12. Alex

    I’m Latino and I’m looking forward to some delicious Koran BBQ! Who cares what the haters have to say.

  13. Cleo Tarca

    Correction: Feastly has dedicated venues, so many of the chefs host in those venues and not in their homes.

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