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Jun 3, 2005 12:46 AM

Trattoria Siciliana [Berkeley]

  • g

We just moved to Berkeley and want to try Trattoria Siciliana on College. I heard you can only pay with cash. Is it expensive and is it worth it?

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  1. I have known the family since their restaurant 10 yrs ago in Pinole. Giuseppi and Rosa now spend half their time in Palermo, leaving the restaurant in the capable hands of their two sons. It is the best Sicilian/ Southern Italian food that I know of in the East Bay. I class it as moderately expensive. And yes, cash only. Be sure to report back.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yambu

      I have eaten only at La Spaghetitata first in Pinole and then El Sobrante. The best time to go is for an early evening or lazy afternoon dinner..then kick back and take all the time eating you want and the service is fine then. Otherwise the other times during rush hour can be long and somewhat frustrating waiting for food. But the chef was entertaining and comes out to see how you like his food and is really into cooking stuff. My wife loves the prawns pesto pasta and we also love the calamari insalada..quite good. The red dishes are also quite good. Didn't have the nerve to order the sea urchin but did watch another table order it and it was quite a treat to watch someone else eat it. Love to hear they are still in business and will visit in Sept. coming in from Las Vegas. BTW does anyone have any idea where the best Sicilian food in Vegas is???? Something along the lines of this place??? Thanks

    2. Yes, it is cash only. It is about mid-range, pricewise, and totally worth it. I'm not a huge fan of pesto, but I saw a lot of people eating it and decided to order it since it looked wonderful. It was a creamy pesto with shrimp and I practically licked the plate clean. All the waitstaff were very attentive and friendly.

      I'd recommend getting reservations though, since it can get pretty packed. Even then you could be looking at a 10-15 minute wait. But I've heard that if you have a long wait on the bench in front of the kitchen, sometimes the chefs will give you a glass of wine and have drink with you.

      1. Twogreat meals there about 1-2 years ago. Sicilian wine selections were good as I remember. There's supposed to be a good Italiam place nearby that is not so well known or crowded.

        1. I had an hour long wait there on a Saturday night for 5 people a few years back. The food was great - especially the complimentary bread/dip and the pasta in a tomato cream sauce with peas. Sorry I can't be more specific. The restaurant has had mixed reviews on Chowhound; you may want to do a search.

          6 Replies
          1. re: katya
            Robert Lauriston

            As Italian food goes, it's cheap. Most places in or below its price range aren't very good. The only place I can think of where you can get better Italian food for the same price is Dopo, which has higher wine prices.

            Most of the complaints have regarded service. When it's busy, which it usually is, the place can be pretty chaotic with long waits. The wine's cheap, drink up and relax.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Robert's absolutely right. Don't go if you like to have your meal perfectly paced with refined service.

              We enjoy watching them run around dealing with the chaos and so we sit back and don't worry about whether we're waiting too long for our drinks or whatever. But we've definitely avoided taking friends who aren't able to enjoy a more liberal concept of good service. I can't imagine you would get rude service, but it can sure be bumpy.

              And yes, the bread with flavored oil makes waiting easier. Our food choices have been pretty hit-or-miss, but I would attribute that more to personal preference than anything else.

              I think most entrees are in the $14-18 range, so if you're new to the area, I'd give it a try and see if it's your thing.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I had dinner there this last Saturday night. The wait wasn't long, and at one point they actually had some empty tables, but the service was just weird. We had our names on the list, but the hostess came out and just said "who wants a table for two" and took us and another party in without checking the list. Anyone could have walked up and walked right past us.

                Two different people asked if we wanted water and then they both brought us water (would have been annoying if it had been a second bottle of sparkling instead of the tap I specified). Our waiter came by said he'd be back to take our order, then went off leaving the order pad on the ledge next to our table. For some reason he was wearing a t-shirt, when everyone else was wearing a collared shirt -- sort of a Jersey Shore Guido look. Happy birthday was sung badly and loudly in Italian -- twice. We ordered three courses, and there were long gaps with no explanation until he brought my friend's porchetta and explained they'd run out of porchetta and this was "tomorrow's porchetta." On the other hand, we'd ordered the penne arrabiata (and told him we enjoyed it), and he brought us a comped order with our bill (someone had made a take-out order and only realized when they came to pick it up that it was spicy, he said, shaking his head at their ignorance). Although they do now take credit cards, their machine wasn't working, which wasn't clearly explained to us (and we barely had enough cash to cover the bill).

                I really like the food and I think the prices are very reasonable, but I suggest you follow Robert's advice, have some wine, relax and let the service go with the flow.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  With that kind of service, did you feel like you were on a can-this-restaurant-be-saved reality show?

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Not really. Clearly the combination of inept and "we're an Italian restaurant" schtick works for them. Just don't go there expecting it to be polished and professional.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      We usually go later in the evening when there's no wait and little or no chaos.

              2. Not expensive (imho) and definitely worth it! The pesto is awesome and I had a butternut squash risotto that was simply amazing! The daily specials are always nice. I will be eating there again soon.