SOMA resident Joseph Manzare is a native of the Bronx, NY, and started working in restaurants in his early teens. By 17, he was telling people he was getting ready to open his own place, and got a college degree in business. After that, he cooked at the five-star, five-diamond Hilton in Woodcliff in New Jersey. Then he moved to Los Angeles to apprentice with Jean-Francois Mettigner at L’Orangerie. Manzare spent all his spare time working at Spago, and came to the attention of Wolfgang Puck, who brought him on full-time. After two years at Spago, he traveled to Italy and spent ten months working at San Domenico in Imola. Returning to the States, he again joined with Wolfgang Puck to be opening Sous Chef at Postrio in San Francisco, where he met his wife Mary Klingbeil, who was working as a waitress. Manzare explained, “I was kind of a loner chef that Wolfgang sent up to help get Postrio started. Mary and I met there 23 years ago.”
Soon, he was offered the position of Executive Chef at 44 at the Royalton in New York, where he was nominated “Rising Star Chef of American Cuisine” for the James Beard Awards. He was Chef at Granita in Malibu when he decided the time had come to launch his own restaurant. In 1997, Manzare and his wife and partner, Mary opened Globe in San Francisco, serving up American-Italian food. The couple then opened Globe Venice Beach in 2000. He and Klingbeil opened the Italian spots Zuppa and the (now shuttered) Joey & Eddie’s. Pescheria was their seafood spot that had a brief run in Noe Valley. Hecho, is their latest venture, a Tokyo style sushi and robata with a tequila bar and mariachi bands.
What sort of food experiences have your three sons had growing up around your restaurants?
Max (age 10) likes sushi, just like me. That’s probably because we’ve been going out together since he was a kid. I started taking him to Nobu’s original restaurant in L.A. when he was 2 yrs old. It was the start of our boys night out tradition. He has been to every restaurant in NYC, L.A. and all over the world. He comes into Hecho. Friday is still our boys night out. First, we’ll have sushi and then he’ll help me do skewers at the robata station. He’s done a lot of events, benefits, and comes to L.A. We do 1000s of the robatas, and it adds up to a lot of yakitori little skewers.
Mary was more protective when Wiley was born five years ago. We didn’t take him out as much, so he’s still a little amazed and looking around when we go out to eat these days. August is 1 1/2 and with three boys, you can imagine what it’s like trying to get out.
Hecho is where you spend most of your time these days. What’s new there?
We have chef Sachio Kojima, who is the main guy. Sachio has a kind of infamy among chefs and the Japanese community. When he owned Kabuto A&S, on any given night, you’d probably be eating with five other chefs. He gets up at 6:30 and starts texting me and is usually there at Hecho ‘til 11 or so each night. I try to get him to take a day off, but he won’t. That means that if he doesn’t take a day off, I don’t either (laughs). We talked about me giving him some ownership of the restaurant, and for now we’re taking it step-by-step.
What are your favorite spots to shop for food?
I like the Marin market on Sundays. A lot of farmers don’t come to the city, so I can do some shopping with them in Marin. There’s always a ton of interesting things to see like nice greens, with all their individual heads and leaves. I like that the market always has the rotisserie truck and that porchetta sandwich. If I’m with the kids we’ll get a loaf of bread and some chicken, and hang out by the lake.
New May Wah Market is great because they have live things like Monterey spot prawns, fresh out of the tank. They’re less expensive than we can buy from our wholesale fish retailers. The other side of the market has so many kind of fresh noodles from udon, ramen, and lo mein. There’s probably a hundred kind of fresh noodles in there. It’s all fun to learn and play around with. On the dry side of the market, there’s every other kind of Asian ingredient you can imagine.
What are your favorite date night spots?
I like to go to Fisherman’s Wharf and get live crab. All those little stands where they crack ‘em for you. It’s great, if you don’t mind waiting 20 minutes. I always go to Alioto’s because the guys there are really cool. Plus, it’s clean. We get two whole crabs and a couple cold cans of beer.
What are your favorite meals to have with your family?
We like to pack up and BBQ at Crissy Field. I have a set up in the car with a knife and cutting board. We’ll put table cloths out, make some salad, and bring all the grill stuff. You can look out at the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz. It’s the greatest place to have a family dinner.
We usually go to Swan’s if we have time and went there recently for my birthday. All the guys know us there. They’ve known Max since he was born. If they see Max and it’s the end of the line, they let him get in line to let us in, too. That’s a lot of fun. We get oysters, clams, crab salad. Wiley loves raw fish, oysters, clams, uni live in the shell; he’s the most adventurous eater.
What do you have planned for this year?
I’ve thought about maybe doing a book. Maybe when Sachio gets situated at Hecho, that’ll happen. For travel, we’re going to try and plan a trip to Italy for a week or ten days. My true roots are Italian and I’ve worked in Italy in a lot of nice restaurants.