Even if you have never lived in San Francisco, the surname Alioto will likely ring a bell. Along with his father, Nunzio, chef Alexander Alioto has been quietly working to transform a nondescript corner space on Fourth Street in the west end of San Rafael to showcase what he does best: inventive, fresh, Italian food. The Kitchen Table opened a couple of months ago, and is already drawing praise from locals.
The fourth-generation Alioto makes his craft look effortless. Amid stacks of gleaming sauté pans, a tidy and compact work space with just enough room for his mise en place and a sous chef, Alioto delivers one visually stunning dish after another.
Alioto made his name at Seven Hills in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco in a career that started with him washing dishes in his family’s Fisherman’s Wharf establishment, Alioto’s Restaurant. Along with cooking in Italy, a stint at the French Laundry and heading up another restaurant in the Mission, the San Rafael–based chef has brought his culinary chops to lucky Marin diners.
The restaurant offers “country-style Italian food,” and while the thin-crust pizza, for instance—which includes a sausage version with caramelized onions, bell peppers and mozzarella ($15)—is familiar, the finesse that goes into creating it elevates this pizza far beyond the league of a casual Italian eatery.
A frisée and poached-egg salad dotted with chewy bits of pancetta and mushrooms ($13) hit every note and texture. The barely runny egg combined with salty pancetta and a sherry vinaigrette is my idea of perfect food. Lightly battered fritto misto ($13) featured welcome, if unexpected olives and onions side by side along calamari and rock shrimp and a spicy aioli. The house-made ravioli uovo ($10) put me over the edge with its rich filling of ricotta and spinach, truffle oil, egg and brown butter. The flavors were all there, but I nearly drowned with the combined heaviness of the ingredients.
The wine list is reasonably priced and well-selected, with no bottles eclipsing $55.
The Kitchen Table, 1574 Fourth St., San Rafael. 415.521.5568.