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Feb 3, 2007 11:25 PM

Oliveto has slipped! Oh, no...

Tonight, 4 people (including 2 non-fooders) enjoyed a very pleasant dinner at my favorite restaurant in the East Bay.

The last time I was there with a chowhounder from L.A., I confirmed a creeping suspicion that it was not truly the Oliveto I used to know. The dinner was excellent, however (the chowhounder loved it) and I didn't give it any further thought.

Today, I happened to be dreaming about their sausages all afternoon, so the paucity of their famous specialty was actually disappointing. The only sausage offered on the menu tonight was mortadella with grissini. It was a superior velvety smooth bologna studded with pistachio nuts and peppercorns. But tonight, I really missed their soppressata, their prosciutto with melon.

One of the reasons I like Oliveto is that reading their menu is never boring. Tonight's menu was chock full of Italian names as usual, always interesting, but I thought it wasn't as interesting as it used to be.

I ordered mostaccioli with Jones Farm rabbit ragu, but they brought tagliatelle with leek cream and parmesan croccante. I wasn't really set on rabbit anyway, so I didn't say anything. The tagliatelle was homemade tasting, with very good cheese "croccante". Spezzatino of Watson Farm goat with fresh-milled polenta was a hearty dish, tasting a little like braised beef. Good polenta.

I really like Oliveto's desserts. Tonight's was no exception. Warm ricotta-apricot crepes with chocolate sauce was savory and satisfying without being cloyingly sweet.

I wonder how I'd have felt had I ordered cruda of razor clams with avocado, peppercress, and Meyer lemon. (That sounded good!)

Overall a very good dinner.with a good wine - Les Picaudieres Rousset Crozes-Hermitage 2003.

Yet something was missing. Have you felt it?

I went there tonight intending to write a longer, detailed review. I feel too tired, I miss the old Oliveto.

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  1. The meals I've had at Oliveto in the past year are the best I've had there ever.

    That is odd that the usual salumi section is missing from last night's menu. Maybe they're hoarding it for the the Whole Hog dinners Tuesday through Friday.

    All the fresh pastas are housemade. That leek cream pasta sounds boring compared with the others:

    Ricotta gnocchi with Hedgehog Mushrooms and Regina New Olive Oil 16.50
    Raviolini of Willis Farm Pork with Garlic and Sage 15.00
    Trompetti with Pork Cracklings, Tomato, and balsamico 14.00
    Bucatini alla carbonara 13.50
    Mostaccioli with Jones Farm Rabbit ragù 14.50
    Pici with Goat sugo and ricotta salata 15.50
    Linguine nero with Braised Monterey Bay Squid 14.00
    Spaghetti with Calabrian Hot Peppers, Garlic, and Breadcrumbs 13.50

    1. I've been wondering if I'm the only person who's had bad luck with the salumi platter - I've ordered it twice, and both times I was underwhelmed. Last time, the fat on the prosciutto was oxidized, and the other meats were unremarkable and difficult to distinguish from each other. I think part of the problem was that they were a little too cold, but even after letting them come to room temperature, I wasn't impressed. I think La Strada in Palo Alto actually has the best salumi of any restaurant I've been to in the Bay Area.

      I have had some very, very good pastas at Oliveto (especially the ones with long-cooked ragus), but I wouldn't recommend the nettle pasta with snails that I had last time - it was excessively garlicky and unbalanced. Still, I'll take Oliveto over Quince any day.

      1. Does anyone think it's acceptable for a restaurant at Oliveto's price point to give you the wrong dish? With this and other recent comments, looks like any claims that the service at Oliveto has improved are vastly exaggerated.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Any restaurant can make a simple mistake. The busy server presses the wrong button on the POS system, and there you go. The important question is, how does a restaurant respond to a mistake when it is brought to there attention? In this case, the OP stayed quiet, so the restaurant was not given the chance to fix things.

          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            I've probably eaten there ten times in the last two years, can't recall any problems.

            1. re: Morton the Mousse

              At that price point, I expect the server to double check the order and also to notice that the kitchen has prepared a dish I didn't order. We're not talking a casual cafe, we're talking about a restaurant that aspires to be the best in the area, and where the tip on the average tab is substantial. You're paying for the highest level of professional service and not sloppy amateurs.

            2. re: Ruth Lafler


              I'm with Robert. The last time I have a "service issue" was at least three years ago, and that was with a large group of us (12 people), so . . . I cut them some slack. I've been there probably 8-10 times in the last two years, both for "special" dinners (i.e.: their annual truffle dinner, their "Whole Hog" dinner, etc.), and regular evenings and never had a problem in that time. In my own personal experience, the service HAS improved significantly.

              Now, bring the wrong dish is certainly a mistake, but far from having the evening FUBAR'd. And, as Morton correctly points out, the OP didn't bring it to anyone's attention, so a) it couldn't be fixed, and b) no one -- except the patron -- knew a mistake had been made.


            3. I was at Oliveto on a trip a couple of years ago. I think being at just about any restaurant with a beautiful woman makes things taste better, and so my memories of the meal are a bit suspect. But I thought the food was excellent. We had an entire meal of appetizers - to be honest, I can't remember them individually, though all were good - which, as it turned out, ended up costing more than two entrées would have cost. But it provided a little more variety than two entrées would have and made the meal feel a little more adventurous. It's funny that grocerytrekker mentions being brought the wrong dish, because, as I recall, we were also brought one of the wrong dishes. And we also ate it anyway. And it was good.

              1. link

                Oliveto Cafe
                5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618