Bay Area’s wildly popular Black Star Pirate BBQ to close

Black Star Pirate BBQ, tucked away behind the Bay Area’s Richmond refineries, is closing for good on November 27, owner and chef Tony Caracci confirmed with SFGATE in an interview Tuesday.

Caracci said that his restaurant, which opened amid the pandemic, had reached the end of its two-year lease, and that the owners of Point San Pablo Harbor informed him about two and a half weeks ago that they were “moving in a different direction.” Though they’re going out on good terms, it wasn’t easy for Caracci, who had made the eclectic space serving organic comfort food classics into a home-away-from-home with a vintage diner feel and touches of Oakland’s Fairyland, thanks to the creative eye of his partner Suzie Vasco. 

“You might only be 20 miles from downtown San Francisco but you could easily be in another time, another place,” SFGATE’s then-travel editor Freda Moon said of the restaurant on a spontaneous visit last year.

Everything – the flowers, the sculptures, the garden, the tri-tip with housemade barbecue sauce – was painstakingly assembled by the couple, who started the restaurant when the road adjoining it beyond the mudflats was still unpaved. But they knew there was something magical about the far-flung location, and it wasn’t just the seemingly endless views of the bay. 

“At first, of course, it was devastating and heartbreaking to hear the news,” Caracci told SFGATE. “We were super sad for like a week. My employees were crying … But all we’re doing is bringing the party somewhere else. The show will go on. There’s no way it will go away.”

Tony Carracci and Suzie Vasco. Black Star Pirate BBQ, Richmond, CA.

John Woodworth

A shipyard worker turned makeup artist who became the founding chef of Cha Cha Cha in the Haight before opening up the Cat Club on Folsom Street, Caracci seems to flourish when he’s in flux. He already has a plan for the next phase of his restaurant, of course. 

After closing at the end of November and taking a couple of months off in early 2023, he plans to reopen the Black Star Pirate BBQ in March as a monthly pop-up in the parking lot of the Baltic Kiss (135 Park Pl, Richmond) – his other newly-opened Southern comfort eatery and music venue just a little over five miles up the road. If it goes well, he said, he’ll host it there every Saturday and Sunday.

But he still hasn’t ruled out another permanent location. Caracci said he hears a new suggestion from someone just about every day – be it on the Berkeley Marina, at the former Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, or somewhere else in the East Bay.

“We’re going to pick the most perfect place to do it,” he said. 

On their last weekend in business, Caracci and Vasco will bid farewell to the Black Star Pirate BBQ with “a New Orleans brass band funeral procession.” Led by self-proclaimed “swamp n’ roll” band Iko Ya Ya, they’ll march from one end of the jetty to the other.

“Then, we’ll party until we can’t anymore,” Caracci said with a laugh. “I want people to remember how they felt when they got here; when they first experienced it. And what they took from it when they left.”  

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