The building that Sotto Mare is located in was built in 1919 and restored in 2003 to its original plan and configuration. During prohibition, it was a winery and cigar store. Then it became the Isle of Capri Italian Family Restaurant, and the second floor was the banquet room. In 1956, the restaurant became the Montclair Italian Family Restaurant. In 1978, it was sold to legendary USF baseball Coach Dante Benedetti. In 2003, Gigi Fiorucci purchased the building. Aaron Peskin was the supervisor at the time and they found the blueprints of the original building. It was rebuilt as two side by side restaurants along with a banquet room downstairs.
In 2014, the Azzolino family (Rich & Laura, and children Vito & Ria) purchased the restaurant from longtime friend Gigi Fiorucci. When the deal closed Rich informed his wife Laura that she was no longer retired and would be working full-time in the restaurant! Ria had already been working at Sotto Mare under Gigi's ownership, and received her North Beach restaurant education well before the family took the place over. Rich and Laura were both born and raised in North Beach, San Francisco’s “Little Italy.” Their goal for Sotto Mare is to create a place where friends, neighbors and worldwide visitors can congregate to indulge in the freshest seafood, good wine, and laughter and great stories shared.
Sotto Mare has an excellent reputation that continues under the Azzolino ownership, and has been featured on television and in many magazines. Most recently, Sotto Mare was featured in Where Magazine. Sotto Mare has a devoted following from all corners of the world, but is most proud of its local customer base and host of lifelong friends that visit the restaurant daily..
The menu was created to be as close to authentic Italian food as possible—cooked just like they do it in Italy. While Sotto Mare is famous for “The Best Damn Crab Cioppino,” it is always testing new dishes and asking customers what new dishes they might enjoy.
Rich has a long and storied history with San Francisco restaurants, including Caesar’s, Jovanello’s and Maye’s Oyster House, and he enjoys teaching others the ins and outs of the business. Rich also taught and ran three restaurants at the California Culinary Academy and was able to mentor kids from the Salesian Boys & Girls Club and Sacred Heart Cathedral about the restaurant industry. Rich's philosophy is really pretty simple: "if you love food and love people, I encourage you to be in the restaurant industry—it is challenging but very rewarding".
Rich’s other passion is collecting classic, muscle and vintage cars. Occassionally, you can find one of his cars parked in front of the restaurant.
Rich tells the story: “My dad, a car collector, would always bring me to shows, the debut of the new automobiles on Van Ness, the Concours d’Elegance, and the Harrah’s swap meets in Reno. I was hooked at a very early age. I started collecting cars while in college. While at St. Mary’s College I had a ’56 Thunderbird, which I still have. I am currently rebuilding a duplicate of my high school car, a green, 1960 Impala. It definitely brings back good memories of my high school days. I also have five Packards, my favorite classics. Right now, I have a dozen automobiles which my wife, Laura, enjoys during the warmer months.
SOTTO MARE RESTAURANT | 552 GREEN STREET | SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94133 | 415.398.3181