Visions of the Bay: Hotel Vitale

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by Charleen Earley

If he were only given five words to describe the hotel he helped open six years ago, Dan Burgess would say “urban, fresh, revitalizing, modern, and nurturing.” So would the countless guests who have made their stay at Hotel Vitale in San Francisco across from the historic Ferry Building.

“For the traveler who is seeking a revitalizing, relaxing, and modern hotel experience that is uniquely San Franciscan, Hotel Vitale is right for you,” says Burgess, Director of Rooms. “I love the vibe of the hotel; it’s very serene and beautiful. People come here because of the neighborhood and to relax.”

The neighborhood Burgess is referring to wasn’t always quite the place to be. Twenty years prior, it had the look and feel of cold, hard concrete and was called the Embarcadero Freeway. However, after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, nature and citizens alike told San Francisco how much it didn’t need that massive, unsightly structure. “Back then, this whole area was not utilized by San Franciscans because there was nothing to do here,” says Burgess.

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Owned by a private entity and managed by Joie de Vivre (French for joy of life), Hotel Vitale was built in 2005 and was part of a lengthy 10-year process; the redevelopment of the Embarcadero area. Burgess feels the end result was well worth it, since just outside hotel doors, along the Embarcadero, people are active and full of life. “It’s a healthy environment here,” says Burgess. “People are running, walking, biking, and there’s the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building Plaza. People don’t have this in their neighborhoods at home.”

With 200 appointed guest rooms and suites to choose from on eight floors, some of them with patios ranging from 825 to 1,150 square feet, Hotel Vitale is the only luxury hotel located on the revitalized Embarcadero’s waterfront. Each room features modern décor and comforts, designed with the very busy traveler in mind. Down to the complimentary white slippers with the words “slow” on one and “down” on the other, Hotel Vitale (French for vitality) beckons their busy, techno-driven guests, who are mostly in the 30s to early 40s, the opportunity to stop for a moment and just breathe.

The view alone is enough to calm the senses, since many guests, depending on room selection, have a 180-degree view of the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, and Treasure Island. Watching the sunrise from one of their circular suites is priceless. Besides the view and locale, guest room amenities include beds with pillow-top mattresses, white 440-thread count sheets, gorgeous custom-designed Belgium duvets, limestone-covered bathrooms, beyond comfortable bathrobes, 32” LCD flat screen televisions, iPod/MP3 player docking stations and CD players, and honor bars with healthy and decadent options.

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With a booking window two to three weeks out, upgraded rooms in this four-star, four diamond hotel feature soothing sound machines, rainforest showerheads, and luxurious bath amenities. Each of the seven panoramic corner suites has a 180-degree circular design with dramatic views from a king-sized bed, and also features a beautiful white soaking tub for two. One almost feels as though they’re sleeping at the Hearst Castle in one of the bell towers, only designed by Frank Lloyd Wright instead. “Our guests love the simply done rooms, it’s elegant and clean,” says Burgess. “We have large hallways with soothing colors and pictures that are organic and simple.”

For the traveler who can’t leave work at the office, the hotel features a 24-hour business center, complimentary high-speed internet access throughout the hotel, personalized concierge services, complimentary daily newspaper delivery, shoeshine, and close proximity to public transportation, including cable cars, subway, BART, Golden Gate Ferry, and Amtrak Station.

Upon first greetings at the customer service desk, guests are immediately given a warm, lilac-scented towel for washing their hands, a soothing gesture you won’t find at other hotels. “This allows you to breathe and start to relax,” said Burgess. “Our guests’ expressions change the minute they see the hand towels and they change their whole manner.”

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Hotel Vitale’s staff and service is known for friendliness over pretentiousness. “Our service is professional and friendly, but we don’t come across as stuffy or formal. We want to pamper you. It’s why we hire people with great personalities; because that’s something you can’t teach.”

Something else you can’t teach is a talent for being a great chef, which is exactly what they found in Chef Kory Stewart for their in-house restaurant, Americano. Chef Stewart and Americano Restaurant embrace the slow food movement by serving modern Italian cuisine made with fresh ingredients from the Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. Chef Stewart began his culinary career at age 12 as a dishwasher in a small Italian restaurant in the town where he grew up. Burgess says Chef Stewart continued to work in kitchens throughout his teen years, where he developed a passion for cooking. He moved to San Francisco in 2002 to attend California Culinary Academy, while simultaneously working in the acclaimed Postrio Restaurant. Later, Chef Stewart traveled for nine months throughout Southeast Asia to garner first-hand experience in Asian cooking. He returned to San Francisco and worked at Michael Mina and Scott Howard before finding his new home at Americano as executive sous chef.

“In February, 2010, Kory’s hard work, dedication and perseverance paid off, and he was promoted to Chef at Americano,” says Burgess. Some of the tasteful entrées Chef Stewart creates are ricotta ravioli with roasted delicata squash, almonds and amaretti, chesnut rigatoncini with braised lamb, Cara Cara oranges and mustard greens, and roasted monkfish with fregola, Dungeness crab, salsa verde and orange crab brodetto.

Chef Stewart’s interview with Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association may be viewed on YouTube by typing “Chef Kory Stewart, Americano in the Hotel Vitale” into the search bar.

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Mark your calendars for some fun and money-saving April events in the Americano Restaurant, including a Wild Foods Dinner and a Tax-Relief package running through April 15, where guests will receive half-off bottles and no corkage fee for dinner, Monday through Saturday in the dining room only. Look for their special Easter Brunch in April and Mother’s Day Brunch in May.

For Jill Plemons, Director of Sales & Marketing, working at Hotel Vitale for the last year and half, has been an experience like none other. “The location, staff, and product are a salesperson’s dream!” she says. “Guests will enjoy luxury touches balanced with soothing natural elements, service from a staff that truly cares, and stunning water or city vistas at our urban retreat.”

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