Inspired by the regional cuisines and traditions of Spain, The Absinthe Group’s Executive Chef Ryan McIlwraith crafts an eclectic menu of meats grilled on a wood-fired hearth, inventive paellas, Old World stews, fresh seafood, medium-sized tapas, imported charcuterie and cheeses, as well as slow-roasted vegetable dishes.
The Spanish-focused cocktail menu from Jonny Raglin, Director of Bars at The Absinthe Group and co-creator of Comstock Saloon, features Spain’s cocktail of choice, gin tonic. The all-Spanish wine list emphasizes small producers and growers, and features sherry on tap.
Located in a landmark building on the National Register of Historic Places, Bellota is part of The Absinthe Group, a collection of San Francisco restaurants and drinking establishments created by proprietor Bill Russell-Shapiro, led by operations director Eric Vreede.
With a mix of both industrial and hand-crafted design elements, the 140-seat dining room captures the surrounding urban cityscape and channels an airy, Mediterranean setting. The space invites you to relax with live music at the 30-seat full bar and lounge, host events in the private dining area, or enjoy front-row seating around the open kitchen with a custom hearth, the heart and soul of Bellota.
ROBERT LEVA, EXECUTIVE CHEF
Robert Leva, Chef de Cuisine at Bellota, is excited to develop the Spanish restaurant’s seasonal menu in his new role. Iberian cuisine has always been an interest of Robert’s, and his deep knowledge of Mediterranean cooking makes Bellota a perfect fit. He is passionate about managing the culinary staff by leading daily kitchen preparations and providing guests with a memorable and educational gastronomic journey. Most recently Executive Sous Chef at Redd Restaurant in Yountville, Leva is a creative culinarian with more than 20 years of high-end experience.
Leva grew up in Binghamton, New York in a first-generation Italian household, where cooking was an intrinsic part of family life. After receiving his undergraduate degree in anthropology, Leva moved to Boston and graduated from the New England Culinary Institute. Throughout the late 1990s, he worked under Chef Frank McClelland at L’Espalier in Boston’s Back Bay and then with Gordon Hamersley at Hamersley’s Bistro in the South End. Robert moved to San Francisco in 1998 and secured a position at Traci Des Jardins’ Jardinière as a Chef de Partie. Since then, he has opened and worked at venues throughout the Bay Area and surrounding Wine Country, including Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga Ranch, Salt House, Rambler Restaurant, and more.
In his spare time, Leva enjoys golfing, CrossFit, dining out with friends, and walking his dogs on the beach.
Working with Leva are Brandon Lucero and Gonzalo Tecuaque as Sous Chefs.
TRACY SMYTH, GENERAL MANAGER
As General Manager at Bellota, Tracy Smyth brings with her more than 25 years of experience in hospitality. Formerly of Foreign Cinema, Tracy combines her talent for taking care of people with a tireless dedication to great service.
RYAN MCILWRAITH, EXECUTIVE CHEF of The Absinthe Group
As Executive Chef for The Absinthe Group, Ryan McIlwraith collaborates with the teams at each of the group’s five unique restaurants to oversee menu development and kitchen operations. Previously Executive Chef of The Absinthe Group’s Bellota, McIlwraith joined the group in 2014 and launched the acclaimed Spanish restaurant in San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood in May 2016. Under his leadership, Bellota earned numerous regional and national accolades, including three stars from the San Francisco Chronicle and restaurant of the year from Eater SF.
ERIN RICKENBAKER, WINE DIRECTOR
Erin has been working with Spanish wine for some time, but after doing harvest in 2016, she was hooked. She is constantly poring over small producers, new regions and indigenous varieties. In the summer of 2017, she spent 3 months in Spain visiting winemakers, discovering various terruños and immersing herself in local cuisine. When she’s not leading guests to new wines at the restaurant, she’s probably listening to Oakland sports and writing about Spanish wine.
DAVE OSBORNE, BAR MANAGER
Dave Osborne first found his passion for the world of spirits while working at a pub in England during college. He has since worked for several beverage brands and notable restaurants throughout the Bay Area and Wine Country, including Karl Lawrence Cellars, Press Restaurant, Young’s Market Company, and The Treasury. Already an avid sherry enthusiast, Osborne thrives within Bellota’s Spanish-inspired program, introducing customers to a variety of traditional Spanish sherries, brandies, sangrias, ciders, and more. In addition to developing unique and authentic seasonal cocktails, Osborne enjoys being outdoors and taking every opportunity to hike, mountain bike, and snowboard.
PHILLIP ACQUAFRESCA, BEVERAGE DIRECTOR, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
As the Beverage Director of The Absinthe Group, Phillip Acquafresca is responsible for overseeing the unique wine lists and offerings throughout the group’s varied restaurant portfolio. Serving as knowledgeable expert with more than 20 years of industry experience, Acquafresca embraces the curated menus of each venue and encourages staff and guests alike to explore new varietals, test new pairings, or find a long-lost favorite.
JONNY RAGLIN, DIRECTOR OF BARS, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
As Director of Bars for The Absinthe Group, Jonny Raglin oversees bar operations at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Comstock Saloon, and Bellota. A native Oklahoman, Jonny’s favorite place in the world is Spain, where you take your time to eat tapas, stroll leisurely, and drink dry ciders, vermouths, sherries and “gin tonics” copiously.
BILL RUSSELL-SHAPIRO, PROPRIETOR, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
Bill Russell-Shapiro, proprietor of The Absinthe Group, is recognized as one of San Francisco’s top restaurateurs. He dedicates himself to the well-being of his staff, and to providing guests with memorable food and drink experiences at Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Arbor, Arlequin Wine Merchant, Comstock Saloon, and the vibrant Spanish restaurant, Bellota.
ERIC VREEDE, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, THE ABSINTHE GROUP
Director of Operations and Vice President of The Absinthe Group, he was the original General Manager of Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, and previously managed Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn, where he oversaw what was then the largest wine list in California.
The Absinthe Group
THE ABSINTHE GROUP TEAM
Bill Russell-Shapiro – Proprietor
Eric Vreede – VP of Operations
Ryan McIlwraith – Executive Chef
Jonny Raglin – Director of Bars
Phillip Acquafresca – Beverage Director
Chloe Pressman – Director of Marketing
The Absinthe Group (TAG), founded and managed by food-industry veteran Bill Russell-Shapiro, creates and operates unique, high-quality food and wine enterprises. TAG includes a carefully built collection of seven businesses, five of which are located in the Hayes Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. They are overseen by TAG Vice President Eric Vreede, Executive Pastry Chef Amy Pearce, Beverage Director Phillip Acquafresca and Bar Director Jonny Raglin. These include Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, Arbor, Arlequin Wine Merchant in Hayes Valley, Bellota in SoMa, and Comstock Saloon in North Beach.