Scala’s Bistro has a new chef at its helm. The refreshed menu is an intimate tour through Old World cuisine with modern, fresh and seasonal twists. We chatted with Chef Justin Deering to get a behind-the-scenes look at the menu and his cooking philosophy. While we were at it, we couldn’t help but pick his brain on the San Francisco spots that earn his chef’s stamp of approval.
Getting Fresh — French and Italian Classics with a Dose of NorCal
The restaurant’s French and Italian classics are getting an earthy Northern California upgrade, thanks to fresh bounty from local purveyors like Marin Roots Farm, Rancho Llano Seco and Four Star Fish.
Justin’s favorite dish right now is the Llano Seco pork chop with roasted carrots, vadouvan yogurt, carrot-top pesto and hazelnuts. The chop is cooked sous vide with olive oil and thyme, finished to a perfect medium on the grill, then placed on a bed of wood-oven-roasted carrots and house-made yogurt. And in that vadouvan yogurt is an unexpected ingredient: a dash of sherry vinegar. Central to Justin’s cooking is an array of vinegars and acids, which he uses masterfully to brighten dishes and make flavors pop.
A Mellow Mindset
Justin’s cooking philosophy is centered solely on the food and devoid of all posturing and pretentiousness. “I don’t like to overthink food too much,” he says. “Taking it too seriously kind of ruins it for me.” Fun fact: his guilty food pleasure is mac and cheese with canned tuna.
Justin’s San Francisco Picks
Justin might be a Maryland native, but he’s been cooking in the Bay Area for decades. He has owned his own restaurant, Conduit, in the Mission, and been integral to other ventures, such as Café des Amis in Cow Hollow and, most recently, the beloved Doc Ricketts in North Beach, where he was Executive Chef. For Justin, the San Francisco restaurant scene is a source of constant inspiration; it’s a small, tight community that brims with outsized creativity.
A perfect food day for Justin begins with an unhurried breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves, Basik Café or Split—but that’s the extent of the plan. He has his tried-and-true haunts, and has generously shared them with us here. Which will you try first?