Owner Bruce Hill claims that delivering pizza in an oversized downtown San Francisco space is no longer viable.
In San Francisco, the leopard-spotted pizza era has come to an end. Bruce Hill’s SoMa Neapolitan-style pizzeria Zero Zero will serve its final pies on Saturday, November 12. Hill says the decision has been a long time coming, and that the restaurant’s recovery from the pandemic has been “just too difficult.”
The decision was made for a variety of reasons, but in a nutshell, Zero Zero’s large, bi-level downtown space has become untenable in a post-COVID landscape. “I would categorise it as a struggling downtown restaurant,” says Hill. “I truly believe we’d be fine if Zero Zero was in a neighborhood location.”
When it opened near Moscone Center in 2010 at 826 Folsom Street, it was dubbed the “French Laundry of Pizza in San Francisco.” It quickly established itself as one of the power players in the then-burgeoning upscale pizza scene.
Hill had already established a reputation for making excellent pies at Pizzeria Picco in Larkspur; though the restaurant is still open, Hill and the ownership group parted ways amicably in 2019.
Hill first wowed Bay Area diners and critics at Picco with a savory-sweet combo of pillowy pizzas topped with seasonal ingredients and creamy organic soft-serve ice cream for dessert, which he carried over to the Zero Zero menu. Since then, the San Francisco restaurant has become a pizza institution, lauded by both local chefs and none other than Tara Reid.
Prior to the pandemic, Zero Zero served 300 diners per day, according to Hill. These days, there’s only enough traffic and staff to justify being open Tuesday through Saturday, which means the restaurant would have to serve even more diners during the five days they’re open.
“It’s just not working,” says Hill. The return of downtown conventions such as DreamForce has given the restaurant a boost, but it’s nothing compared to the days when tech workers would fill the space for lunch and belly up to the bar after work.
Hill says he’s proud to have been one of the first to bring wood-fired pizza to the city as Zero Zero nears its end.
He thanks a long list of employees for helping the restaurant survive its 12-year run: chef Jose Canto, who has been with the restaurant since its inception; general manager Michael Butler, who fought to keep Zero Zero open during COVID; all of the employees, many of whom have been with the restaurant for a decade or more; and interior designer Michael Brennan, who “established our Wild West-steampunk atmosphere,” Hill wrote in a statement. All of Foodwise’s suppliers, producer partners, and farmers are also on the list.
Hill is still the executive chef at Bix, a supper club on Jackson Street about a block off Columbus; if anyone wants to eat his food after November 12, they can find him there. Hill isn’t ruling out the possibility of returning to the pizza business at some point in the future, but it would have to be after he finishes up with Zero Zero.
As a sole proprietor, he claims that properly closing up shop is a difficult task. “I love pizza and would like to be a part of a wood-fired pizza business in the future,” Hill says. “But for the time being, I’ve got a lot on my plate.”
Zero Zero, located at 826 Folsom Street in San Francisco, will close on Saturday, November 12.