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 the cook’s homes.
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.