.Che Fico Parco Menlo

An SF Italian restaurant’s newly opened Menlo Park locale

In November, Che Fico Parco Menlo opened in Springline, an extremely well-branded multi-use development. 

Chef David Nayfeld, with co-owner Matt Brewer, opened the original Che Fico in San Francisco in 2018. Just a week before Christmas, this new Silicon Valley extension, both inside and al fresco, was packed with eager diners. The price points—$28 for a margherita pizza, $36 for a square of lasagna, $43 for seared octopus—suggest Italian fine dining. 

Nayfeld described his restaurant as adjacent to, rather than as full-fledged, fine dining. “I look at it as the amount of touches that each element needs to undergo,” he explained. 

Price point plays a role, as does the presentation. “It boils down to the luxury of labor and the amount of people dedicated to making sure that one guest, or one table, is having the most pristine experience possible,” said Nayfeld, who brought up the vongole en crosta ($38) as an example of a labor-intensive dish.

“We go tableside with a little bit of pageantry, with what looks like a calzone,” he said. “We cut it open and all the steam bellows out and all of these clams in their own shells are inside the crust.” The clams open up as the waitstaff mixes them with the fragrances of lemon and olive oil before serving the plate to the guest. “That’s a dish that totally speaks to who we are because it’s easy to understand and it’s fun to eat,” he said. 

The chef wants people to sit down to eat without having to endure a three-hour meal. His vision for Che Fico Parco Menlo is flexible. “What I’m hoping we’ve created is a place that withstands the next 30 years and becomes this place where people make many, many memories,” he said.

Between 2013 and 2023, the chef traveled to Italy a dozen times to taste the food and restaurant experience. On one trip abroad, the chef and his business partners set out to eat a margherita pizza at most pizzerias in Naples. “We wanted a baseline for comparison,” he said.

There are eight pizzas on the menu that Nayfeld described as not Neapolitan, however. “We really have invented our own genre in terms of the dough,” he said. “We do this natural fermentation, which is akin to sourdough, but that’s not really the correct term.” The fermentation process, the use of local grains and the addition of honey in the dough are unheard of in Naples. “It’s blasphemy. In Naples, it’s flour, water, yeast and salt,” he said. 

Nayfeld is no longer cooking or supervising each dish that’s made in the Menlo Park kitchen, which was made clear when the lasagna bolognese was served burnt. It featured a thick béchamel sauce—like clotted cream—and was more prominent than the ragu, which is supposed to add flavor and body, not ooze out to thicken on the plate. Conversely, the spaghetti in a pomodoro sauce was undercooked with a sauce that lacked seasoning. 

Every ingredient in the suppli ($12), a Roman version of arancini with molten fontina at the center, was cooked properly.

Nayfeld said that Menlo Park and San Francisco are “very different animals. Menlo Park has been this treat that, frankly, I didn’t even know I wanted,” he said. “Over the past couple of years of building, it’s become this amazing place that I really enjoy.”

Che Fico Parco Menlo

1302 El Camino Real, Menlo Park

650.384.6514

Cheficoparcomenlo.com

Open daily  4:30–10pm

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