Did Delfina’s Craig Stoll end poverty?

From Modern Luxury’s San Francisco Magazine profile on the history of the Delfina empire:

If Delfina played a role in the fancification of the Mission, what do you miss most about the good ole days?

Craig: Don’t get me started on the word gentrification. I don’t miss anything about the good ole days. I don’t miss crime and squalor.

I wonder if Craig thinks that he solved the underlying problems that lead to crime and squalor, or if he’s content with being a force that shifted it into someone else’s neighborhood.

I lived at 18th and Dolores through much of the nineties and 18th and Guerrero for much of the two thousands, and I’m not sure he did much more than open some high end restaurants.

102 Responses to “Did Delfina’s Craig Stoll end poverty?”

  1. motowaki says:

    maybe this dude should open a place on sixth & market instead of the police substation.

  2. Jack says:

    God forbid someone find a place with cheap rent and start a successful business.

    • eric says:

      successful people make me feel shitty. i wish they would stay out of my neighborhood.

    • Dan says:

      Agreed! He and his wife started out with almost nothing and made something of themselves and the neighborhood as well… And damn that pizza is good.

  3. scum says:

    This guy makes me puke. ” Just being able to contribute in a meaningful way to this community. And to have made it to the ripe old age of 48 and be an upperclassman around here

  4. Peter says:

    What a piece of crap this is! I’ve already seen a very negative post on Facebook where the discussion is turning towards Craig Stoll being an asshole because he says he saved the Mission. No where in the article does he come close to claiming that, all he says is he doesn’t miss the days when there was more crime and squalor. How do you make the leap to your headline, or wondering how he feels? You read way, way, way too much into this comment. This pathetic little post basically puts words in his mouth and gives those petty, jealous little pricks that for whatever reason (rightly or wrongly) don’t like him or his restaurants, more erroneous fodder for their cannons. How ’bout spending some time writing something worthwhile?

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      I was definitely employing hyperbole with that headline, as a reaction to years of hearing from people who have started high end businesses in the Mission that somehow the only other option to the changes that they have helped bring about is “squalor”. I think what he said is problematic, in that I haven’t seen a real effort from his businesses to address the issues that create poverty and crime in the neighborhood, other than to make it unaffordable for poorer people to be there. I very well could be wrong, I’d love to see what he has done. What’s wrong with wondering how he feels? I feel free to wonder how anyone feels. Anyway, I disagree that this kind of discussion isn’t worthwhile, obviously.

      • Peter says:

        What, exactly, did he say that was problematic? Admit it, with your own personal bias you were reaching, and way too far. No, it’s not wrong to question the way someone feels, but you couched it in such a way that you basically answered his question for him. Do you know for sure what gives or does not give back to the community? I’m guessing not. If you truly had lived in the area during that time (I did, by the way) then you’d know there was writing in the wall long before Delfina & BiRite entered the picture. To say they edged out existing businesses, is horseshit, the stores and restaurants that were there had long since given up and barely functioned as businesses. Yet somehow you think the Stoll’s are responsible ruining an entire neighborhood. That’s naive at best.

        • Ariel Dovas says:

          Whoa. Now you’re reading way more than I wrote. Will respond when I can get back to a computer.

          • Peter says:

            Well, shoe’s in the other foot now, isn’t it? How does it feel? Don’t bother responding, it’s a little late. To hear what some of the early leaders in the inevitable gentrification think about it all would be interesting and worthwhille. You had a chance to start a discussion in a non-biased way, but you blew it. Instead you mis-represented someone and facilitated unwarranted negative attacks. That’s just shitty.

          • Ariel Dovas says:

            This wasn’t meant to be unbiased. I was reacting to what was in the magazine. I didn’t say that they edged out existing businesses, but it would not be horse shit to say that. Sammy (of BiRite) is an old pal of mine, but ask Jivano what happened to his shop. I got my hair cut at Bruce’s and got my weird stuff at Quality Junk. I don’t think that the Stoll’s are responsible for ruining an entire neighborhood, and I don’t think it’s ruined.

          • Chalk man says:

            What happened to Jivano is that he was basically living in his store and not doing any work. I lived within 50 feet of his sharpening business yet for his last year, I couldn’t find a time after work or on a weekend when I could get knives sharpened….yea, I miss Bruce, who cut my hair as well, now I go to Angelo, but to call Krim’s Krams a functioning business is a joke

          • gabriel says:

            It’s problematic that Stoll positions his private business as a force for civic good without considering any concerns from the community he claims to be serving (“Don’t even talk to me…”).

            It’s problematic – and a little insulting – that Stoll regards ‘squalor and poverty’ as the defining characteristics of the neighborhood people like Ariel were living in.

            It’s problematic that Stoll regards “squalor and poverty” primarily as personal inconveniences rather than signs of human misery or – and this is key – broad indicators of social issues that could be addressed by civic-minded businessmen like himself.

            It’s problematic that Stoll does not indicate any grasp of the qualitative difference between actively addressing social issues vs. opening a restaurant and taking credit when signs of those social issues become less immediately visible.

            I’m inclined to disagree with the assertion you make here, Peter, that Ariel’s intent was to hypothetically pose a rhetorical question in order to “[answer] his question for him.” Your premise that personal biases shouldn’t inform opinions expressed in blog writing also sounds fishy.

            Ariel has introduced problematic statements made in a public forum by a prominent businessman about issues pertaining to the Mission District. Regardless of whether you’re inclined to agree with the opinion expressed, it’s not really a piece of crap, Peter. That wasn’t a nice thing to say.

        • scum says:

          He referred to himself like this “and be an upperclassman around here” How much more of an a-hole could this guy be?

        • BowlerBob says:

          Hey man, what about Krim’s Krams?
          That business is still going in the TL, but he wanted to stay til the LL realized he could get a ton more rent from a rentaurant

      • Valenchia says:

        Ariel: You didn’t employ hyperbole; you deliberately slimed someone. If you want a discussion, you need to start by being honest.
        Blaming Stoll for not solving crime and poverty is just bizarre. I mean it is not like you are doing anything about those problems.
        You just need to get over your obvious jealousy at those who are successful.

        • Ariel Dovas says:

          I’m not jealous of his success, I’m annoyed at the way he sees his role in this saga.

          • Peter says:

            Quote me the part in the article where he annoys you. I recommended you stop responding, you should’ve listened, you’re just sounding more and more pathetic. You got annoyed by a fluff piece in modern luxury’s SF magazine? C’mon. Seriously, what annoyed you? I asked before and you didn’t answer. Let me see if I can help. “Don’t get me started on the word gentrification. I don’t miss anything about the good ole days. I don’t miss crime and squalor.” That? What? You miss crime and squalor? What he said there in now way whatsoever shows that he thinks he has a role in this “saga” Oh, wait, maybe it was this line, “I don’t know how to make it keep from sounding trite, but watching our staff thrive. Watching them take on other things. Just being able to contribute in a meaningful way to this community. And to have made it to the ripe old age of 48 and be an upperclassman around here.” Yeah, that’s annoying, he’s proud of what he’s accomplished, I hate when people are proud of being successful. Once again, he barely acknowledges his role in this “saga” except to say he’s proud to be a part of it, how the fuck can that be annoying unless you’ve got some petty grievance against the guy. Face it, man, you wrote some stupid shit, basically baiting all your fellow petty haters into making more stupid comments. By bringing up all those half-crazed failed businesses that have fallen by the wayside just shows how out of touch with this you are. All those businesses failed because those people gave up and were doing a crappy, half-assed job. What, everyone should’ve just left well enough alone until they disappeared and the store fronts remained empty? Yeah, the good ol’ days. Honestly, I don’t know why I waste my time, but it’s these simpering, sad little attitudes like yours that make me even more glad I left SF.

          • Ariel Dovas says:

            Peter, you just quoted back to me the same line that I quoted above. There are so many straw men in your argument it looks like you’re starting a scarecrow football league! But seriously, I’m not for blight, I’m for a thriving neighborhood community. I’m for leadership that brings the people of the community along as they grow, rather than supplanting what’s there. The latter is what I have personally witnessed.

          • heyballsack says:

            Dude, just admit you’re Craig.

            Here’s the problem: “Don’t get me started on gentrification.”

            Implicit in that clause is a dismissal of a whole host of issues around class, poverty and access in San Francisco. Craig doesn’t want you to get him started on that. There’s nothing to be read into here, he’s very clear: he doesn’t want to talk about class issues and how he may have impacted the Mission negatively. Instead, he “doesn’t miss anything about the good ol’ days,” which is another clear statement: he welcomes a neighborhood where everyone can afford Delfina (and not because the prices have dropped). Sorry, but there’s no interpretation required for these statements. If Craig wants to clarify them, he should do so. Ariel’s done nothing wrong in highlighting them.

          • because you're a dick, peter says:

            “Honestly, I don’t know why I waste my time”

            Because you love to hear yourself think.
            Your tl:dr screed and sad little attitude make me even more glad that you left SF.

        • Ariel Dovas says:

          Wait, also, what do you mean I’m not doing anything about those problems???

    • JohnnyL says:

      I agree with Peter, this is horeshit meant to (once again) incite anger with “hero” commenters.

      • Ariel Dovas says:

        Eh, I think if anything, this was “meant to” call someone out, open him and myself up to a dialogue that could result in either or both of us being wrong. I think that his comment warrants further discussion, so I’m trying to give it a place to happen. The anger’s there, I don’t think it needs inciting, but discussion can be helpful.

        • N.J. says:

          Cool call-out bro, very professionally and calmly done. I particularly like the journalism employed in this piece, which as far as I can tell consisted entirely of quoting and article and then talking about your own personal experience of having been a resident near his business. Good job, well done!

          • Ariel Dovas says:

            Without sarcasm, what about what I wrote bothers you?

          • Mobity Mosely says:

            Wondering what he thinks, and giving him two dickish hypothetical options, and holding both against him. Of course he only started a few fancy restaurants. He never claims anything more in the interview, but that alone seems to put a huge chip on your shoulder.

          • because you're a dick, peter says:

            Wrong. He claims he’s an “upperclassman” in the Mission.
            Frat boy dickhead perspective.

            And how about the wife?!
            “I just ran up to a store in Noe Valley to buy something.”
            Oh, yeah; she’s supposedly “broke” at the time but shops Noe rather than Salvation Army or Goodwill.

            The yupped-up douche that wrote the ‘Modern Luxury’ article needs to be called out for her twattery, too.

            “As a veteran food writer—not to mention the person who, at 27 years old, wrote up San Francisco magazine’s tiny review of Delfina when it first opened (the photo above was from that issue)—I feel like I’ve grown up with the Stolls. I called them up for a little trip down memory lane.”

            Not to mention but let’s anyway…

            D O U C H E ! ! !

      • AnotherDave says:

        I agree as well, with Chalkman too. Lived in the neighborhood for years. Jivano’s business was an empty storefront in the few years I co-habitated the block, never open. Delfina was simply a well executed idea, and Stoll wanted to do something he could be proud of. So what of the plates of delicious pasta are 18 bucks? There are still plenty of cheap eats and he employs a bunch of mostly happy people.

        BTW, Stoll and Sam from birite have thrown charity events for schools, and done more for the neighborhood than 99% of the bullshit on Valencia, so stop hating.

        Want to have these higher cost restaurants make a real difference in SF? Talk your friends who work front-of-house jobs to start sharing tips with the hard working folks om the back of the house. Another few bucks an hour for your average dishwasher will go a long way

        • heyballsack says:

          Or maybe the dishwashers at the more expensive restaurants in the Mission should be paid more. Gee, what a thought.

    • eric says:

      i am jealous because after 15 years, all i have to show for living here is a run down apartment. my life sucks and all these new people are happier than me.

      • El Dedo says:

        Wait a sec. You mean to tell me the guy across the street who worked his ass off to better his situation didn’t just hand you money and opportunities to fix your shit too?

        Damn. That guy is a total asshole.

      • I'm comfortably numb says:

        Been here 23 years, 22 in the good ole mission, after paying some fucking dues, I’m making bank. My life has paralleled the progress the city has made. I was in lower Haight yesterday and looked in at the Toronado. It was full and the same dickhead bar tender was there from 1990. Fuck it, I now have at least 10 maybe more alternates to find a good and rare beer. My street went from 2 lanes to one lane with a bike lane, just like I had hoped it would. Army St can finally be retired as Cesar Chavez turns into a very nice gateway to our fair neighborhood.

        Gun play seems to be down but these things go in cycles as 11-year olds turn 12 and need to make their name and as old grudges are rekindled once homey is released from stir.

        I can still get the best goddamned burrito or taco made but I can also get better Tuscan food than I ever had in Tuscany. I love looking out my window and seeing people ride bikes, run and walk, It wasn’t alway this way. I do miss all of the motorcycles. It used to be that most bars would have several bikes parked out front.

        So I say thank you Silicon Valley for employing me for 23 years, making me a leader in my small market, and raising the general welfare of San Francisco.

        • umm says:

          some real truth here. most of the whiners moved here in the past few years and will never know what it was like to be holed up in your house for days at a time because of a gang war or because the Hell’s Angels are beefing and the cops don’t want anything to do with it. they moved to an up-and-coming neighborhood when it was already nice and didn’t think to get on a lease with rent control. the world doesn’t owe them shit for being here a few years earlier.

          • Zig says:

            When was that? I never heard of any of my relatives being holed up. Sounds like bullshit. Are you a Mission native?

        • Nasty says:

          “Paying some fucking dues”–working in Silicon Valley is paying dues? I thought you had to do, you know, something hard.

          “Fuck it, I now have at least 10 maybe more alternates to find a good and rare beer.”–Oh you just keep getting more precious.

          “Gun play seems to be down but these things go in cycles as 11-year olds turn 12 and need to make their name and as old grudges are rekindled once homey is released from stir.”–A little implied racism and classism, very nice touch.

          “I can still get the best goddamned burrito or taco made but I can also get better Tuscan food than I ever had in Tuscany.”–At what point during the rigorous, soul-crushing drudgery of paying dues by writing computer programs did you take your vacation to Tuscany?

          “raising the general welfare of San Francisco.”–I.e., pushing all of its problems into one or two specific areas of the city and most of Oakland.

  5. Ed Lee's Vichy Regime says:

    I once saw an older couple give their Delfina leftovers to a homeless guy. Does that count?

  6. marcos says:

    Had there not been crime and squalor in the first instance then cheapskates like Stoll would not have been able to outcompete the “Brick a Brack” junqueria that had rented those storefronts to sell overpriced Italian and later on $45 pizzas. Yet another libertarian to see “opportunity” by ruthlessly outcompeting the less powerful out of their workplaces and homes.

    • Valenchia says:

      Yeah our society would be so much better if talented people just did nothing and everything stayed the way it was.
      That really seems to be your attitude. You can’t stand the idea that someone was innovative and successful. You hate the idea that someone actually starts a business that works and the people voluntarily go to.
      It is not clear how you are going to solve the problems of society but you sure as hell aren’t happy that anyone else has a good idea and makes money on it.
      One doesn’t have to be a “Libertarian” to realize how backward thinking you are. If you don’t like his pizza, don’t buy it. But whining because he is successful and then blaming him for problems he didn’t create and no one else is solving is just pathetic.

      • dave says:

        Talented? Shrewd is not the same as talented.

        This reminds me of when people described Wall Street investment bankers with words like ‘talented’ because they figured out how to make money.

      • Jelly says:

        Did you say the same thing about Kenneth Lay?

      • heyballsack says:

        No one gives a fuck about someone’s “talent” to make expensive food for wealthy people. At the end of the day, that doesn’t contribute shit to society, it just helps the wealthy paper over the economic and social conditions they’re passively contributing to and/or reinforcing. Seriously. There is nothing “innovative” in any meaningful sense about a high priced restaurant. Innovative would be healthy, quality food at low prices.

        • unfuckingbelievablenonsense says:

          That’s Alice Water’s shit down pat.

          Trendy bullshit food.
          Healthy, yes. Radical and revolutionary, no.
          Innovative food, no. Innovative food marketing, yes.

          If these clowns really cared about people and ‘society’, they’d open natural food restaurants that young people of low-income could afford to eat at regularly, like every day.
          Invest in the future; feed the youth good food.
          Not happening in the yuppie reality, though.

      • Nasty says:

        It’s pretty funny that you technocrats try to pretend you’re not libertarians. Dude, we all know who you are. You think tech can solve all problems, you think your industry is a meritocracy, and you’re voting for Ro Khanna. We know. Just relax.

  7. uhhhhhh says:

    There still IS crime and squalor!

  8. Dan says:

    You get a pizza at Delfina Pizzeria for $10.75, or as much as $17. Not $45, marcos. One can easily spend $10.75 at any of the multitude of Mission restaurants that have been around for decades.

    One person mentioned Bi-Rite as a Mission interloper. The family of the current owner of Bi-Rite started the store at the 18th Street location in 1964.

    • Lamb says:

      Thank you for pointing this out about Bi-Rite. I don’t think that many people know how long it’s been there.

  9. dave says:

    Is this the beginning of the inevitable identity crisis at the missionmission blog?

    I agree with the detractors, Ariel Dovas is all over the place here, and not doing a very good job of explaining himself. I think he’s finally experiencing what everyone eventually experiences when contemplating the changing Mission, a revulsion at the bald-faced consumerism and how it’s destroying his neighborhood.

    That’s how it happens: With a visceral reaction. Let’s start with the fact that it’s being written up in something called “Modern Luxury.” That sounds like the kind of magazine that has ads for high-end luxury cruises in the back.

    While half the commenters here will get huffy and say, ‘hey man, what’s wrong with talented people enjoying their success on a luxury cruise?’ The other half will rightly understand that this sort of obscenity belongs on Union Street, not Valencia.

    Either the people who run this blog think that the new Union St.-like Mission is actually a positive development, or they will soon get to the same place on their learning curve that we all get to after enough years of seeing the ‘change’, and realize that once the ‘talented’ luxury cruise entrepreneurs set up shop, every ounce of Mission cool gets leeched from the neighborhood.

    Maybe you can shame this restaurant entrepreneur into donating some leftover salad to a homeless shelter, but that’s not gonna make delfino’s or the new mission cool.

    • Ariel Dovas says:

      Mission Mission is a group blog, and all of the contributors have their own perspective. I don’t think that mine has changed much over the years. I may not be doing a very good job of explaining myself, but I’m trying and happy to elaborate if I can.

    • heyballsack says:

      Ariel is the Barack Obama to Allan’s Andrew Breitbart.

    • Leary says:

      Alternatively, maybe the people who run this blog recognize that the city isn’t meant to just be a museum for 1990s anarcho-punk life, and it’s going to change with time no matter what.

      • Nasty says:

        A lot of things are cool that aren’t 1990s anarcho-punk life. Techno-libertarian-drenched neighborhoods are not one of those things, however.

  10. scum says:

    I have been here since 72, go home.

  11. Schlub says:

    I can’t really fathom why people have a problem with Craig Stoll. OR Yaron/Local Mission. These folks are visionaries, and they have the best of intentions. AND they’re doing it mission style – local, non corporate, high quality. I can’t necessarily afford to eat at their establishments, but when I can I feel fortunate and happy to do so. Pretty much everything about their ethos is right on, and I’m happy to support them as much as I’m able.

    • unfuckingbelievablenonsense says:

      Visionaries??? Visionaries???????
      Mission style? Mission style???

      “I’m happy to support them as much as I’m able.”

      A fool and his money are soon parted.
      You are a schlub.

    • Nasty says:

      Visionaries? It’s visionary to have some money, invest it in a restaurant, and then start a restaurant?

      I don’t think you know what words mean. You lucked out and almost put a bunch of them together coherently.

  12. motowaki says:

    a smarter response would have been to thank the crime & squalor for creating an advantageous situation to start his bidness, but he isn’t sad to see it go. his response (as printed) seems glib.

    clearly an opinion piece by ariel to drive conversation about his perception of the line he quoted.

    who comes to this blog for journalism? if you did, you made a wrong turn.

  13. Greg says:

    Oh well

  14. Andy says:

    Your post is witty and spot-on, as usual, Ariel.

  15. WTF says:

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh YOU FUCKTARDS shut UP.

    I can’t BELIEVB you people are my neighbors.

    None of you sound like anything that makes Mission so lovely to live in.

  16. WTF says:


  17. I hate techies says:

    I hate Stoll and the other smug arrogant foodie assholes who think they’re god’s gift to the world. Fuck em all.

  18. Steve-Z says:

    Can we talk about Pay ‘N Save going up-market? Pretty sure it illustrates some grand socio-economic point about awnings and dark wood shelving as they relate to marginalized populations.

  19. Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

    Ugh. Fuck that guy.

  20. MissionBernal says:

    Mmmm…Delfina Pizza. Just thinking about it makes me hungry. Glad Ariel and his gang of haters are going to stay away from Delfina. More pizza & less waiting for me!

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Mediocre pizza at thrice the price it should be? You’re welcome to it. Glad you won’t be cluttering up the good pizza joints.

      • peep says:

        Which “good” pizza joints in the mission are you talking about? Honestly curious.

        • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

          Serrano’s, Arinell, Pi and even Escape from NY all have much better pizza than Delfina… at, as noted, a fraction of the price.

          • Debatable and subjective says:

            Used to buy pizza from Pizza Pop, it is still programmed into my land line. Never hit that speed dial anymore but if I did it would dial directly too… Serrano’s. Hey Serranos was good in its time, back before we had good pizza in SF. Also Escape was good for a moment too. Those places have been surpassed. Arinell is the best, no argument. PI is good for the beer, the crust is good but the size is small and it is sometimes greasy. I eat there a lot because it has a great staff but it is second to Arinell for NY style slices. Delfina is Neapolitan. It is good but that shop in Glen Park is better, Beretta falls slightly behind and then there is Tony in North Beach and Tony in SOMA. Those guys make some great pies. There is so much good pizza now. It makes me smile and gives me great joy.

        • Nasty says:

          Dude said “good pizza joints.” That doesn’t just mean joints that make good pizza. It also means pizza joints which are good places in which to find oneself. Delfina is like the worst place to be, regardless of product quality.

  21. BowlerBob says:

    Dominos delivers

  22. Jessica says:

    Craig Stoll = local and non corporate? Apparently, you aren’t aware of his current expansion to Burlingame and Palo Alto. I mean, good for him, but he doesn’t care about you or the Mission. Don’t get it twisted.

  23. Mission local says:

    I have lived here in the Mission and the Castro for years and have known people who have worked for Delfina over the years. I know they treat their employees great, pay them well, feed them, and have a lot of people who have stayed working for them since day one. I have also seen them and their staff volunteer for everything from Dolores park clean up to local school events. They even sponsored the sisters of perpetual indulgence this year for their Hunky Jesus. To say they don’t care about the Mission community is just not accurate. I understand looking at them cross eyed for expanding but lets not pretend like they haven’t done a lot for this nieborhood over the years. It takes very little actual research (journalism) to actually look into what they have done for the nieborhood.

    • Lamb says:

      I’ve never eaten at Delfina. (I would be able to afford it as a splurge, but I would rather splurge at La Traviata.)
      But in Delfina’s defense: A number of my friends have worked at Delfina, and used that work as a springboard to open their own restaurants.

  24. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource for free.

  25. 1%er says:

    I’m just glad brown people can’t afford to live here or eat at these places.

  26. Ellis Island says:

    What is Delfina?