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Oliveto or Chez Panisse?

One night left in SF/Oakland/Berkley. Which would you choose and why.

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  1. I'd pick CP, basically the touchstone of Cal cuisine and the Oliveto crew came from CP. To me it's one of those perennial restaurants you want to check off your list. If you've already been to CP, then I'd do Oliveto.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      As much as I enjoyed my most recent meal at Oliveto I would agree

      1. re: ML8000

        The Oliveto crew had many CP alums at one point but notably Bertolli and Tusk are gone, and Canales the Exec is not an alum. Ingredients stream is greatly the same. "Cal" cuisine phase was more of a Jeremiah Tower thing IMO involving more inventive liberal rules. CP is true to the ingredients which are mediterranean climate based/locally available. This means mainly french and italian technique/sensibility. Oliveto on the other hand is more traditionally Italian in the honor it pays to tradition, set up of menu, and overall focus. CP is truly the temple of the local food movement (current marketing wildfire originator). Oliveto is an artisanally based kitchen with an extremely dedicated staff.

        I'm an Stars, CP, Oliveto alum.

      2. I'd pick Oliveto. It's my favorite restaurant. I like eating the way the menu is set up-- antipasto, a pasta course, and then a main. I love the attention to detail, the handmade pastas and houseground polentas. And I like choosing my own dinner.

        1. I've been on and off disappointed by less than fabulous food, w/ small portions and high prices at Oliveto.

          I can't say I've never been disappointed at Chez Panisse (no one is perfect). But it's mightly rare. A no-brainer for Chez Panisse, imo!

          1. I'm in the same boat as Milltowngirl -- I've never been disappointed at CP but have been mightily disappointed at Oliveto.

            1. If this was 15 years ago, the choice would be clear: CP. It's old and tired.

              Go to Olievto. It's more fun. The chances of discovering something you never had before are much higher.

              1. Went to the Cafe!! Liked everything except the fried sole. I ordered 2 entrees... ;]

                Offhand we ordered

                crab legs
                shoot i don't even remember there was a lot of food. I was pleased with everything except one of my (two) entrees. (Sole).

                duck http://photos-907.ak.facebook.com/ip0...

                lamb http://photos-910.ak.facebook.com/ip0...

                1. Oliveto
                  5655 College Ave, Oakland 94618

                  1. I think the question is bogus. Imagine being in Paris or New York and being asked which of TWO restaurants you would rather go to on your last night. If the SF Bay Area is as gastronomically developed as we tell ourselves it is, then its shameful to reduce the East Bay's culinary offerings to TWO choices. Not only does the question leave out such landmarks as Bay Wolf and a host of newer gems like Eccolo, but it caters to the media's tendancy to want to pick the best, rather than embrace the diversity. The question also implies that Chez Panisse is the king of the hill, rather than one of several culinary kingdoms all with their own virtues and occassional disappointments. Rather than ask, by implication, which of the two restaurants is best, why not ask What do you feel like eating? If its somewhat rustic food with complex Italian flavors and presentations, then go to Oliveto. Its usually great! But if its more of a Cal-French (Provencal)mood you are in, with a lighter touch, go to Chez Panisse. Its usually great as well, both upstairs and down. Lets get over rating restaurants, putting them in competitions, and start appreciating their nuances and creativity. We have great food here, but we treat our culinary players like sports players, always wanting to identify the "best." Unlike sports, there is no best in the realm of art. I like Picasso AND Matisse.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: garlicboy

                      The question wasn't which is best, it's which would you pick and why.

                      1. re: garlicboy

                        Bay Wolf? You have got to be kidding. How many years ago did it serve a first-class meal?

                        1. re: offalgood

                          I have fairly picky friends who eat there a couple of times a year and love it.

                      2. I'd probably reserve downstairs at Chez Panisse, then when the menu came out decide whether to cancel and go to Oliveto instead.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          This is a good strategy. The wintertime downstairs menu I had a year ago at CP was, I hate to say it, really uninspired and suffered in comparison to a dinner at Oliveto a few nights before.

                          When CP is good, it's perfect, but that's not always the case and when you're eating downstairs and forced into the meal, it's kind of a bummer.

                        2. I would say Chez Panisse - there's something about it that's special. IMHO, there are a lot of restaurants like Oliveto around.

                          1. Previous commentary is good, esp Mr Lauriston and Garlicboy.

                            I, personally, would choose CP upstairs. I've eaten only twice at Oliveto, and had good but not great (Zagats 26 while expecting 28) food. CP downstairs is always underwhelming (28 expecting 30), although I can exactly remember a certain sorrel soup from about 6 years ago. CP upstairs has many good memories and great meals - although the last couple of times were shopworn (27 expecting 29).

                            Realistically, I haven't eaten at any of these for about 3 years. SF has taken back the fancy dining crown, with boulevard being my default "treat" restaurant (although I have a soft spot for Lime, rarely mentioned on CH, my last birthday choice --- and I couldn't talk friends into Michal Minna last time around - friend had to take a huge pay cut in becoming a lawyer, and no longer throws money around).

                            The east bay excels at small plates and korean and BEER, so that's where I end up.

                            1. I second the upstairs recommendation (at Chez P)- meant to say that above, actually.

                              1. I third the upstairs recommendation but i do highly appreciate Oliveto's charcuterie.

                                1. Another vote for Chez Panisse upstairs. I've never had a 'bad' meal there.

                                  1. Upstairs at CP is better than downstairs -- most of the time. But I'd still pick Oliveto's . . . or Lalime's.

                                    As far as Baywolf is concerned, I, too, know some people who eat there several times a year and love it. I used to eat there regularly, but I prefer other places. Now it's perhaps one every 12-18 months, and I find it consistently below expectations.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      I absolutely love Lalimes. thanks for bringing that one up.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        Agree about Baywolf - never figured out the attraction. Menu's great, room is nice but not great (compared to CP or Oliveto or...), food is pretty good but no dish ever knocked my socks off. I expect at least one dish every other meal, at least. Haven't been back in years.

                                      2. I've had mixed reactions to Olivetto's food and service over the years, but everything was perfect the only time I ate at Chez Panisse Restaurant years back. If you are going to choose between the two, you might want to check out their websites for the current menu, especially for the restaurant at Chez Panisse, since you don't get to make your own food choice.

                                        FWIW, my two favorite East Bay restaurants for similar foods are Soizic in Oakland and Rivoli Restaurant on Solano.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                          I know the service has been the "knock" against Oliveto's for a long time . . . but I haven't had poor service there is a long time. Everything's always been "spot on" during every visit in the last -- oh, at least the last three years. Sometimes it has been a bit slower than one might like, but that has *only* occurred duting "special" events, like "Whole Hog" or the Truffle dinner -- events when (IMHO) you have to cut them a little slack from expectations for a "normal" evening.

                                        2. My new favorite Ebay restaurant is Pizzaiolo. I would go there before either Chez or Oliv.