by Marcia Gagliardi, TABLEHOPPER, San Francisco
Ask any West Coaster for their favorite eatery—chances are high that Judy Rogers’ Zuni Cafe will be at the top of the list for San Francisco restaurants. While residing in San Francisco, Zuni Cafe was always my “go to” with friends for lunch, dinner, or cocktails & oyster before continuing on to a reservation elsewhere. Sadly, owner/chef Judy Rodgers passed away this week. The following piece by Marcia Gagliardi of TABLEHOPPER in San Francisco mirrors my own sentiment of this iconic lady and her establishment. San Francisco plus classic style equals Zuni Cafe and may Judy’s passion.
“Today, the culinary world has a heavy heart with the knowledge that our beloved Judy Rodgers, chef-partner of Zuni Cafe, has tragically left us. She was only 57 years old, and had been suffering from a rare form of cancer. I was discussing with a friend last night, as Alice Waters is to Berkeley, Judy Rodgers was to San Francisco. She gave us perhaps our most quintessentially San Franciscan restaurant, one that continues to bring us so much pleasure; a touchstone of quality, style, and soul . . . simplicity done right.
When I turned 40 a couple of years ago, I made sure I was going to be at Zuni at the exact time of my birth, sitting outside in the sun, eating a half-dozen oysters and later some shoestring fries, with a glass of Billecart-Salmon in my hand, the smoky tinge in the air from the brick oven. I was happily by myself, just wanting to properly honor my own little landmark moment. I had so many memories in that space already. Dinners with past loves, drinks with past lovers. Where else would I go but Zuni?
All of us have such indelible memories of eating at Zuni Cafe—the silky ricotta gnocchi, the trademark anchovies and celery, the epic Caesar, and of course the famed roasted chicken with the warmed bread salad, a dish many San Franciscans would say would be one of their last if they were leaving the city. I know it’s one of mine. And yes, there’s that burger. Even watching Judy in this video making the Zuni burger with Martha Stewart, she is so full of information and tips. She has influenced so many cooks, and so many diners. Her legacy will live on, but right now, her death is such a terrible loss. Deep condolences to all her family and dear friends and colleagues, to everyone she touched. May they find some comfort in the fact that the gift of her many talents to our city is eternal.”