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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Pop In To Provender

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge Provender owners and brothers Austin & Tony Ferrari - ALI WUNDERMAN
  • Ali Wunderman
  • Provender owners and brothers Austin & Tony Ferrari

I’m going to put my linguistics degree to good use and give you a language lesson. Potrero translates from Spanish to “paddock” or “pasture,” a reminder that parts of San Francisco were once grazing land for farm animals. The word “provender” is derived from Old French, meaning “food” or “provisions,” specifically for those pasture animals. So it’s no surprise that San Francisco’s newest coffee shop by the same name fits in perfectly with the Potrero Hill neighborhood. See how well that comes together?

Provender’s name was an intentional and clever choice by the owners, as it sets the tone for how the cafe syncs up with the surrounding area. The owners are two brothers, Austin and Tony Ferrari, who originally hail from Cincinnati, but who are equally defined by their Italian heritage as by their Midwestern upbringing.

I met up with the two of them, bringing my Sicilian fiancé along in case I needed any wild Italian gesticulations translated, and together we learned about the history and inspiration for Provender.

Over the past seven years, the Ferrari brothers have made their mark in San Francisco’s culinary scene with Tony’s stint in Michelin-rated kitchens, and their combined experience at Bernal Heights’ Hillside Supper Club, where Tony is the chef and co-owner, and the 22-year-old Austin works as beverage director.

It’s Austin’s skill with beverages, specifically coffee, that motivated him to start his own coffee shop, one nestled in the heart of Potrero’s commercial district. Of note is his signature creation, the Maple Wood Cold Brew ($4). It’s a refreshing coffee-forward drink rounded out with maple wood and sweetened with maple syrup, yet the sweetness is in no way overbearing. Like all the coffee drinks on their menu it can (and should) be paired with a pastry — I’d personally recommend the thyme currant lemon scone ($3.50).

click image AUSTIN FERRARI
  • Austin Ferrari

In true Italian fashion, Austin and Tony created their menu using their mother’s recipes as inspiration. This includes the extremely delicious banana bread ($4) and a highly potent espresso ($3). (It's a brew “thick as molasses,” according to Austin.) In true San Francisco fashion, they pay homage to the scrupulous eating habits of the region by including vegan and gluten-free options on their menu.

Perhaps my favorite characteristic of Provender is the sense of community it fosters, that uniquely Italian sensation of being able to walk into a place and be greeted by friends, even though you’ve never met. It’s a small space, formerly home to a cupcake bakery, but the size has not stopped them from collecting a serious amount of regulars. It’s no surprise they’ve done so well after only two months of being open when you consider their low prices, friendly demeanor, and excellent coffee and food. 

Provender1415 18th Street, 513-390-7681.

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Ali Wunderman


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