Not too big, not too small -- and just right
The age of the independent grocer might be deep in its twilight season, but that doesn't mean a fresh gleam or two can't occasionally appear in the gathering Wal-Mart-Target-chain darkness. One such gleam is Falletti Foods, resurrected in a handsome new complex next to the DMV just east of Golden Gate Park's Panhandle. Falletti had operated for years in the old Petrini's space at Masonic and Fulton. But that building was demolished in 1999 to make way for housing. Well, I thought at the time, so much for Falletti, RIP. Even in San Francisco, the tendency toward chain grocers in barnlike buildings seemed to be irresistible.
The reborn Falletti (still owned and run by Tick Falletti and his sons, Dominic and Jamie) is almost defiantly small, just 6,000 square feet of full-service market. Yet the space breathes nicely; the flow is natural, the aisles wide and well lit, the produce section a roomy square set about two central islands, one of them devoted to organic foodstuffs. Wines are displayed on elegant wood shelves just past the main entrance, while on the other side of the store is a long, L-shaped butcher's counter — "40 feet of meat" — from whose shining glass cases can be had Diestel turkey parts and Dungeness crab, among many other delicacies.
I had supposed, before visiting, that the store's compaction meant it would emphasize prepared foods and deli items, but this isn't so. You could easily do your weekly shopping here, and prices, while not low, are competitive with those at similar stores. As for prepared foods: a Delessio Market and Bakery occupies a large corner of the floor space and is separated from Falletti mostly by signage of the you-are-now-entering sort. And for seekers after coffee, there is a Peet's in its own cozy alcove just off the main entrance. The presence of the latter probably helps explain why Falletti doesn't sell any bulk whole-bean coffee (such as Jeremiah's Pick or Sark's), just imported Italian stuff like Illy.
The realities of our strange times say that even the little guy has to have free parking and take credit cards, and Falletti does both. The place doesn't have Whole Foods' array of cheeses, but that doesn't seem like a terribly high price to pay for buy-local types, which I hope most of us are.