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2nd Best Restuarant in Berkeley?

Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 03:58 PM

Looking for a dinner rec, can't be Chez Panisse, Oakland okay, too. thoughts?

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  1. Morton the Mousse RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:04 PM


    3 Replies
    1. re: Morton the Mousse
      Curtis RE: Morton the Mousse Sep 5, 2006 04:53 PM

      Second for Pizzaiolo and honorary mention for Dona Tomas just a few steps down the block. Casual yes, but delicious, interesting and the courtyard is still open and excellent!

      1. re: Curtis
        Mission RE: Curtis Sep 5, 2006 08:33 PM

        When did Pizzaiolo and Dona Tomas move to Berzerkely?

        1. re: Mission
          Robert Lauriston RE: Mission Sep 5, 2006 08:36 PM

          Re-read the original post.

    2. Robert Lauriston RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:08 PM

      Oliveto. No contest.


      Other upscale-ish white-tablecloth-ish places include Adagia, Bay Wolf, Citron, Eccolo, Jojo, Lalime's, Le Theatre, Olivia, Rivoli, and Soizic, but none of those are in Oliveto's league.

      Cafe Rouge, Dopo, and Pizzaiolo have better food than most of those places, but they're more casual cafes.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        Daniel Duane RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 04:31 PM

        wonderful. thank you. I've absolutely loved Oliveto in years past, but don't eat in the east bay much these days, so I've lost confidence in my sense of what's there, how Oliveto is holding up, that sort of thing.

        1. re: Daniel Duane
          Robert Lauriston RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:48 PM

          Olvieto's gotten better in the last couple of years, since Paul Bertolli left to start his salami factory and Paul Canales took over. Food's a bit better, service is a couple of orders of magnitude better, wine list has more reasonably priced bottles.

          1. re: Daniel Duane
            oakjoan RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 10:16 PM

            Oliveto! It's comfortable, beautiful and has magnif food. It'd be my first choice.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston
            Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 06:56 PM

            Interesting. I read that list and thought how few of those places I think are really good.

            I've had eaten at: Citron (not impressed by the food and found it very uncomfortable, although that was many years ago), Bay Wolf (twice, want to love it but it never wows me), Lalime's (several times because it's a family fave, but I'd never choose it myself), Rivoli (didn't love it and the tables are annoyingly cramped), Soizic (a couple of times, don't love it). I did have an excellent meal at Cafe Rouge, and I wouldn't consider it "casual" (not at those prices!), but the noise was a bit over the top. I had a very poor meal (uninspired food, dreadful service) at Oliveto, but that was also several years ago.

            A couple of places where I did have good experiences and would go back: Olivia and Zax Tavern (which isn't on that list; although I haven't been there recently, I've had several meals there that I enjoyed).

            I've avoided Dopo because I keep hearing about how it's small and hard to get in, and same for Pizzaiolo, athough now that it takes reservations, I'll have to give it a shot. I guess the next time it's time for me to pick a white-tablecloth place in the East Bay, that leaves Eccolo.

            I'm also struck, reading this list, by what a rut these restaurants are in: Cal/Mediterranean and the same style of Italian. Daniel Patterson may have been overstating the case about too much Chez Panisse influence when it comes to San Francisco, but not when it comes to the East Bay.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler
              Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2006 07:11 PM

              Eccolo's very similar to Oliveto except not quite as good.

              Cafe Rouge is more casual than the places I listed as upscale-ish white-tablecloth-ish. Bright lights, paper instead of tablecloths, bar along the side of the dining room, butcher counter at the back. Similar to Pizzaiolo.

              Dopo's even more downscale.

              By Daniel Patterson's logic, most of Italy and southern France are in a terrible rut. Nothing but rustic, seasonal, market-driven Italian food. Though in the Oakland-Richmond corridor we've also got great Thai, Mexican, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, etc.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                Ruth Lafler RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 07:40 PM

                The East Bay is not Italy or the south of France. There's no reason for it to be stuck in that rut. The quality and variety food stuffs available to Bay Area chefs, and the multiple culinary traditions in the area, all could inspire much greater levels of creativity within the local, seasonal framework.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler
                  rworange RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2006 07:44 PM

                  Maybe those two new Asian places on Solano will be something, the one in BenDean's an the other one up the street.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler
                    Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2006 08:30 PM

                    We've already got lots of semi-upscale Asian and Asian fusion places: Pearl Oyster Bar, Soi 4, Unicorn, Grasshopper, O Chame, Marica, Furenzu, Cuvae.

                    Saigon City's food was very good. I imagine Patrick Bui's style will be similar at Bui.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler
                      Jefferson RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 5, 2006 11:51 PM

                      I think this argument is a bit beside the point. Restaurants are subject to the same laws of supply and demand as most other small businesses. I recognize that some restaurateurs have a dream and will not be deterred from trying and failing regardless of what marketing consultants or investors might tell them. However, if there weren't diners wanting to eat the same thing over and over, people would open something else. By the logic of capitalism, we're getting what we want. ;-)

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        Robert Lauriston RE: Ruth Lafler Sep 6, 2006 12:11 AM

                        Who's eating the same thing over and over?

                        My favorite East Bay restaurants--Chez Panisse, Oliveto, Pizzaiolo, Cafe Rouge, and Dopo--all change their menus daily based on what's in season and available. I rarely eat the same thing twice as I'm rarely offered the same thing twice.

                        I think Bay Area chefs are extremely creative.

                2. itsolivia RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:13 PM

                  I really enjoy LaLimes. And Olivia.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: itsolivia
                    oakjoan RE: itsolivia Sep 5, 2006 10:20 PM

                    I don't like Lalime that much, but I've grown to LOVE Sea Salt. That's a place that's out of the Cal/Ital/Fra rut. I've now been there four times in the past month and a half and wouldn't mind going once a week. Their halibut with mushrooms and mashed spuds is so rich and delish. At the other end of the glamour scale is fish and chips and the bacon lettuce tomato and trout sandwich. The wine list is not huge but I had a great white from Friuli last time.

                    1. re: oakjoan
                      JasmineG RE: oakjoan Sep 5, 2006 10:35 PM

                      I have also grown to love Sea Salt -- everything I've had there has been great (and I don't think I've had the same thing twice). The sandwiches are fantastic, and I love the appetizers.

                      1. re: JasmineG
                        Robert Lauriston RE: JasmineG Sep 6, 2006 12:12 AM

                        I like Sea Salt a lot, eat there once or twice a month. It might make my East Bay top 10, but it would be toward the bottom.

                  2. a
                    Agent 510 RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:23 PM

                    There's also Downtown Restaurant on Shattuck and Allston...and on North Shattuck (near Chez Panisse) you could include Cesar and even the Taste restaurant in Epicurious Garden in the "upscale sit-down tablecloth" category...

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Agent 510
                      Robert Lauriston RE: Agent 510 Sep 5, 2006 04:46 PM

                      Downtown's more of a cafe-type place, often very noisy, and the food's hit and miss. Great place for a drink and a dish of fried olives.

                      Taste doesn't feel like a restaurant to me at all, more like some kind of cramped, high-tech wine bar. Very weird overbuilt space, trying to be too many things at once--wine shop, wine bar, restaurant, chicken takeout.

                      Cesar's definitely more of a noisy bar atmosphere when it's busy. I've been there when conversation was impossible except by yelling into the ear of the person next to you. Nice place when it's quiet, say in the middle of a sunny afternoon, or after a late dinner.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        oakjoan RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 10:21 PM

                        Again let me point out the Downtown has a side room that is quite nice. It has a closeable door for folks who don't want the loud music.
                        Food's good, too.

                        1. re: oakjoan
                          Ruth Lafler RE: oakjoan Sep 5, 2006 10:22 PM

                          Well, I'm not a fan of the food. I think it's okay, but expensive for what you get.

                    2. d
                      dfresh RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 04:39 PM


                      1. c
                        Celeste C RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 06:13 PM

                        I love Rivoli on Solano.

                        1. c
                          chewonthis RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 07:19 PM

                          Oliveto and Garibaldi

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: chewonthis
                            Robert Lauriston RE: chewonthis Sep 5, 2006 07:34 PM

                            What's good at Garibaldi's?


                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              chewonthis RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 09:16 PM

                              We go primarily for the meat dishes ... lunch - great hamburger and shoestring potatoes, dinner - steak or lamb again, with shoe string pots -- notice a trend there?
                              Their desserts are pretty good as well.

                              1. re: chewonthis
                                oakjoan RE: chewonthis Sep 5, 2006 10:21 PM

                                Burger is great!

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                RodW RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 5, 2006 10:55 PM

                                Garibaldi's usually has a grilled lamb tenderloin on the menu, often with Moroccan seasoning and couscous. I've always enjoyed it a lot. They also do yummy antipasti that tempt me to overindulge...

                            2. rworange RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 07:33 PM

                              Have you tried Jojo in Oakland? Great house champagne


                              4 Replies
                              1. re: rworange
                                JasmineG RE: rworange Sep 5, 2006 09:44 PM

                                I agree, I really like Jojo. The food is great, and the service is lovely.

                                1. re: JasmineG
                                  oakjoan RE: JasmineG Sep 5, 2006 10:22 PM

                                  I also love Jojo, but haven't been in a while. Any recent descriptions?

                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                    JasmineG RE: oakjoan Sep 5, 2006 10:37 PM

                                    The two most recent times I've been there, I've gotten whatever steak dish was on the menu, and both times it was perfect. I haven't been in a few months, though...I might have to go back soon.

                                2. re: rworange
                                  itsolivia RE: rworange Sep 7, 2006 06:10 PM

                                  I LOVE Jo Jo...wonderful ambiance, great owners...

                                3. foodiegrl RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 08:22 PM

                                  Chez Panisse? :)
                                  But seriously, Oliveto has become so strong recently, we enjoyed our last visit there a great deal more than the dinner we had last fall at Chez Panisse (downstairs).

                                  The service, the wine & the food are outstanding. I also have to give a special nod to their bread. DH is a native New Yorker and has bemoaned the quality of West Coast breads for almost 20 years. Only Oliveto has perfected that crunchy/chewy dense-but-not-hard texture in a loaf that is not sourdough. We will go back for that bread alone.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: foodiegrl
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: foodiegrl Sep 5, 2006 08:33 PM

                                    Oliveto's bread comes from Acme. Special variation of the levain.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                      rootlesscosmo RE: Robert Lauriston Sep 6, 2006 12:02 AM

                                      A server told me they get it partly-baked, then put it in their oven and bake it to get the crust darker than it comes from Acme.

                                  2. m
                                    MrSmart RE: Daniel Duane Sep 5, 2006 10:45 PM

                                    Oliveto, hands down. Personally, I prefer it to Chez Panisse. The 3rd would be tough for me. I can't really think of Pizzaiolo or Dopo or Pearl's or a few other excellent restaurants in Broakland as being in the same league with Oliveto and CP.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MrSmart
                                      heidipie RE: MrSmart Sep 6, 2006 04:03 AM

                                      I'm with you. Oliveto's number one.

                                      We eat at Zax rather often as it is our neighborhood joint, and perhaps if you went there once a year you'd find it memorable, but we don't find their kitchen terribly creative (tho it is pretty reliable).

                                    2. The Chowhound Team RE: Daniel Duane Sep 6, 2006 04:42 AM

                                      The Chowhound Team split off a digression about great SF breads into its own post renamed "Quality SF breads." You can find it here:

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