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Sep 5, 2006 03:58 PM

2nd Best Restuarant in Berkeley?

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

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    1. re: Morton the Mousse

      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

        When did Pizzaiolo and Dona Tomas move to Berzerkely?

    2. 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

        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

          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

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

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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. I really enjoy LaLimes. And Olivia.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: itsolivia

                    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

                      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

                        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. 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

                      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

                        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

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