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DiBartolo Restaurant - anyone been for food or drinks?

Looking for feedback on the DiBartolo Restaurant beside the Coffee shop on Grand Ave in Oakland. I've walked by but haven't had the opportunity to dine. Did notice there is a bar in the back. You'd think the bar would be up front to show the business is busy. But what do I know.

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  1. I've been in for drinks only. I agree it's odd to have the bar in back, but I assume there was some rationale. The bar was crowded and it was tough for staff to get through to pick up drinks for dinners. The staff were friendly and competent. They have some unusual house cocktails that were quite good from the tastes I stole from a friend. The menu looked a little uninspired, but perhaps it was a tad safe since it was their opening menu. The Lakeshore/Grand corridor could really use a good restaurant and bar, so I hope the place turns out well in the long run.

    If nothing else, I bet they serve great coffee :-)

    1. I had a good but not especially memorable meal there a couple weeks after it opened. We had a glass of bubbly at the bar and were seated after a few minutes. Shared a margherita pizza to start, then I had lamb chops, nicely medium rare... the food was fine, nothing spectacular. Service was not polished but very friendly. For me it's walking distance so I'll be back, but unless it improves I think Mezze on Lakeshore is a better bet in the neighborhood at that price point... though Mezze's prices may be just a bit higher.

      1. I had a meal there some time back that while not terrible, was definitely subpar for the price. Not sure how to do a link, but check out my previous post.

        1. We were strolling on Grand Avenue this evening, after a movie at the Grand Lake, and happened upon Di Bartolo. It looked promising, but we were in the mood for a cocktail and didn't see any sign of a bar. I'm glad we poked our noses in to ask -- we were directed to the swanky little bar at the back, and enjoyed a couple of Hendricks martinis and some terrific marinated olives before moving to a table for dinner. I'm pretty much a martini traditionalist, but I noticed a concoction on the cocktail menu -- Hangar One Buddha's Hand vodka with a house-made ginger syrup and black pepper -- that may prompt a return visit.

          For dinner we had a couple of salads -- a good Caesar with tasty marinated boquerones filling in for the usual salt-cured anchovies, and a lovely heirloom tomato and arugula salad with crumbled blue cheese (it was listed with shredded manchego, but changed without explanation). Then we had an excellent New York strip steak served over creamed corn and green beans, with a dish of fries on the side, tossed in minced garlic and herbs, and a seared sea-bass with white beans, fennel and a simple tomato sauce. We finished up by sharing a nectarine and berry crisp with vanilla ice-cream. I liked the wine-list, offering a range of unusual treats from all over. We had a delicious Justin tempranillo from Paso Robles.

          We'll definitely go back -- it's a surprising, sophisticated, urban space in this laidback Oakland neighborhhod, and the staff are well-trained and eager to please. The food is well-executed neighborhood fare, nothing out of the ordinary, but very satisfying. Next time, we'll stay at the bar and try the pizza...


          1. I've lived in this neighborhood for 21 years and during this time I have been watching it gracefully become one of the most interesting places to live in the bay area. Those of us who have lived here in the Grand/Lake area for some time are now getting to experience a vibrant transformation and influx of a well balanced cross-section of diverse cultural influences. The introduction of a few really good new restaurants over the past few years has added to the enjoyment of being here. I have been to di Bartolo's 5 times in the last month and a half and have yet to have a negative experience there. Granted, the wait staff is a little inexperienced, but they are learning and getting better at their jobs. I have never felt neglected or poorly served even during busy times and always have been treated courteously. I do find it a bit of a mystery that the layout is somewhat backward. An excellent and comfortable bar is located at the rear of the restaurant, but if one had never been in, it would be hard to know that the bar was there. Foodwise, the menu is rich and full of many well prepared dishes. The chef, Jason Wheeler, knows his craft. Since he has come on board, (he wasn't the original chef), the food has continued to improve and evolve into better and more interesting choices that are very well prepared and there is a good mixture of choices to satisfy a wide variety of tastes and preferences. I have had the chance to sample most of the items on the menu, sharing plates with friends and my wife, and have yet to find one that I would not order again. Even so, the menu continues to change and everytime I have come back, I have had the chance to find and explore new seasonal offerings, made with locally grown and raised ingredients. This is especially important to me. I believe in supporting local producers, and the menu here allows me to indulge without guilt. Will I return? Without question...I will be enjoying di Bartolo's on a regular basis. One of the many reasons to be happy and grateful to be living in Oakland right now, as it continues to express a new "renaissance" as a center of good living and eating and enjoying life at it's best.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Klein Blue

              I've also lived in the Grand Lake neighborhood for about 20 years. I, however, haven't noticed these new places opening up....I know Mezze, Arizmendi, Peets, DiBartolo...what else is there? The first 3 have been there for years. I have seen Autumn Moon close down (much to our distress) and loads of not very interesting places come and go.

              I just got takeout last night from a pretty bad Japanese restaurant, Mijori. The sushi and sashimi was okay, but the other stuff was blah.

              Please let me know where these new places are. I'm ready!

              1. re: Klein Blue

                Make sure you got to Coach Sushi! The old Mr. Sushi down by Zzaas. Excellent Sushi.

              2. It sounds like they started out rough, and are starting to hit their groove... I have somehow walked by it many times without noticing it in the last 10 weeks (must have thought it was a new addition to the cafe) and went for dinner for the first time last night.
                I was very pleased - I actually thought the value was excellent for the money, significantly more so than Mezze, which I find overpriced and mediocre. I think they're on par with A Cote - actually, very similar in style of food and price point.

                I adore herbs in cocktails, and they use a lot in theirs. The ginger cocktail didn't taste quite as I expected (citrus overwhelmed the ginger and the black pepper), and it was too strong for me to get a second drink (yes, lightweight, thanks), but I'll definitely go back to try some others.

                We split two apps - a roasted half Frog Hollow Peach with herbed mascarpone, and a basket of perfect fries with fresh herbs (with excellent romesco and aioli sauces for dipping.) Main course was a great pizza (if I'm going to nitpick, I'd say the crust was more crackery than my ideal) with leeks, mushrooms, pancetta, and two fried eggs on top. I'm a sucker for umami and more umami smothered in unctuous egg yolk, so I was pretty much in heaven by that point.

                Dessert was a good mascarpone cheesecake with almond genoise and berry sauce.

                For two drinks, two apps, pizza, and dessert, it came out to under $30 per person, before tip. Would definitely encourage people to give it another shot, if their initial experiences were disappointing.

                4 Replies
                1. re: daveena

                  Hey daveena, good to have you posting again! We're on a Korean tear through Oakland and the South Bay, so hope to hear from you about your favorites when you have a chance.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Thanks Melanie! Looks like I have some catching up to do... now that I no longer live on Soondubu Row, I've fallen off the Korean chow trail, but I should start looking into scene in Oakland. Also, for the past year, I've been stuffing myself with the European and Chez Panisse-school food that I didn't have access to in the South Bay.
                    Hey, can you tell me who keeps the contact list for East Bay Chowdowns? I want in!

                    1. re: daveena

                      Good for you! Sign up here for the East Bay Chowdown list to help organize outings -
                      Be sure to take a look through the archived messages for a couple pending events.

                  2. re: daveena

                    After a few more meals, I am going to retract my above statement that Di Bartolo is on par with A Cote - they have neither A Cote's consistency, nor the high percentage of new dishes each month. But they are still good for a neighborhood restaurant. I was very disappointed by the orecchiette with cavolo nero and squash (overcooked pasta, excess of creamy sauce) and found the panna cotta with the persimmon sauce to have a weirdly soapy aftertaste. However, the quail has been excellent every time, the cauliflower soup is great, and the steak is very good.

                  3. The East Bay Express did a review on it this week.


                    1. Just stumbled into di Bartolo while on the way to my favorite bargain sushi on Grand.... seduced by exposed brick, brown tables, white linens and plates.

                      We walked in around 7-ish on Saturday and breezed to a cozy corner table at the back bar, all brick and dark wood, which made me feel like I was in Brooklyn. Which is very cozy and good, on a Fall night. Because it's pretty standard Cal/Med food (though one of the more enticing menu's in Oakland, for sure), it all hangs on perfect execution. We went for the most pedestrian of starters (which is usually a decent way to see what's going on in the kitchen). I found the tuna tartar fine to eat, a bit too spiky with vinegar, but the crispy strands of fried onion gave a nice crunchy contrast. If you're feeling junky, the garlic fries went well with our citrusy 209 gin and Hangar One vodka cocktails. But the Caesar salad crashed and burned, so much so that I longed to tell the chef so that no other innocent diner would fall victim to the gloopy, flat dressing and house-made croutons with the acrid must of oxidized olive oil. My date went to the bar and procured lemon wedges for me, in a vain attempt to liven it up. (Great bar service, by the way!) Hopefully the salad was an isolated incident.

                      We erased the taste memory of the salad with lovely desserts, a heavenly autumnal walnut-y bread pudding, and a silken, just-tart-enough panna cotta, shared with a glass of port. Cozy, nice. Superb desserts.

                      Definitely will go back -- I really want places like this to make it in Oakland -- but I sure hope they're taking in all the feedback and working out the kinks, so they can hit their mark.

                      1. I dropped by for dinner on Saturday night, and was pleased. Nothing outstanding, just solid food in good surroundings. The kaffir lime margarita was great, and I really enjoyed the steak frites -- steak cooked to perfect medium rare, celery root puree was really good, and the fries were tasty. My friend had the eggplant and goat cheese salad, which she loved, and the margarita pizza, which looked not quite crispy enough. We didn't have dessert, but the dessert menu looked promising. We sat in the back room bar area, which is a really nice little area, nice tables for seating there, and a good amount of seting at the bar. I wish the price point was a little lower, but even so I'll definitely go back.