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The idea of Chow was born in 1995 in a trattoria named Piccolo Roma, where my friend Michele’s father was a cook. Piccolo Roma is in the middle of Rome, around the corner from the Pantheon, which was the piazza where Michele was raised. He wisely suggested to me that I go and eat there!

If you’ve ever tasted Roman food, its clarity is powerful, it’s very sure of itself. It hits you in the middle of your tongue and demands your attention, a sharp reflection of its people, and like Hawaiian music, it takes you somewhere. After having eaten there several nights in a row, I realized that those dishes could not be recreated back home, my experience could be an inspiration, but not duplicated.

Long ago in Amatrice Rome, a cook had guanciale-tomato-onion-olive oil-chili-grana cheese and pasta in front of them, and the idea of combining them entered their mind, so the classic pasta all’amatriciana was born. They were open-minded and trusting of their instincts. It’s not easy to create such dishes, there’s a long story behind them, there’s a kind of magic involved! I contemplate dishes for years and years … Making new connections should never stop. We’re not dishonoring our heritage by considering something new, our ancestors did – so we should pay homage to our influences and proceed with caution. Work to master our technique, understand their origins, and then perhaps we’ll have a foundation to build upon. This is a challenging and complicated assignment for an American cook.

If we honor our influences and translate them into our times, perhaps we can contribute as a citizen in some way. That’s sorta’ what we set out to do at Chow– reflect our rich and varied ethnic influences in the Bay Area, our people, our culture, our land, our frontier history, and our collective origins. So that was the lightning strike for me, 1995 in Roma – the very first time I could see the idea of Chow clearly. I knew that I couldn’t contribute to the formation of Roman food culture, but maybe I could to our own. As American food historian Karen Hess wrote - “American food is a tapestry of enormously complex design.” I hoped and believed that I had something to contribute, I still do.

All countries have regions which represent the history and tastes of their people. The Bay Area is an enchanting place, and is an inspiration to our food culture in America. The ingredients that shape our foods are driven by people, nature, our history and by how we care for one another. The beauty of nature is meant for all of us to enjoy…

Chow was born out of these rhythms, to contribute to our young food culture has always been our aim. The spirit of our offering reflects who we all are, and hopes to create a sense of community, and a feeling of being at home. I believe this to be the City Center’s vision as well, and we are grateful to have this opportunity.

Kind regards,


June 2022

Chow's Founder & Chef


Tony opened the first Chow in the Castro in 1997. Since then, Chow has had locations in San Francisco's Inner Sunset, Lafayette, Danville, and now San Ramon. Tony is driven by a love for healthy, affordable comfort food, and he aims to bring this love to the people. For him, the spirit of the offering is what it's all about. 

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