Berkeley - The Phoenix Pastificio – Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door
The live music Saturday was by “Berkeley's beloved "Peacenick" John Fizer” who sang the title song.
Peeking in the kitchen that Phoenix Pastificio shares with Café Zeste is like knocking on heaven’s door.
The bread, just pulled from the oven, was loaded with fat salty purple olives that were heavy with oil coaxed out and made liquid by the heat … the soft, warm, white bread embraced by a thin, crackly crunchy crust
The bread almost spoke … “break a hunk off of me NOW or you are a hopeless fool’.
The bread is available about 1 pm during the week. On weekends they bake all day and have those great pastries that are sold at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers market.
I miss the old store, but there is more of a connection with the source here. It is real-er and so charming.
Walk through Café Zeste to the kitchen door. Glance at the tattered list of pastas on the door. There are always four or five reduced-price specials. On one visit boxes of Meyer lemons lined one wall.
Poke your head in the kitchen and it is one-on-one with the friendly down-to-earth owner who interrupts his pasta-making to hand you a loaf of warm bread and chat for a while.
Antoine, the owner’s son … who has grown up quite a bit … plays hide and seek with his friends outside the building.
You’d never guess the pasta is the star in so many top Bay Area home and professional kitchens. No crazed lines of like Acme snaking out the door and into the parking lot.
Just a relaxed, almost provincial, shop. This feels more like a little side street is a small European town rather than Berkeley.
On my first visit, the olive bread was both a reward and a consolation prize.
FINALLY near Phoenix Pastifico on a Friday, I stopped by for the challah. They no longer make it except for by special order for events. They will also make some sort of large challah on request.
There’s still the same list of pastas cut to order.
I was interested in the pasta on that post and didn’t list the ravioli: pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach ricotta, smoked salmon, smoked chicken, spicy roasted vegetables, three cheese, wild mushroom, parsnip, carrot & sage, crab & lobster.
For dinner I had the olive bread … delicate, flavorful, sweet pea with sautéed leek ravioli … goat cheese with roasted garlic ravioli that a bit of orange zest ... on a bed of pizziaola sauce … a light crushed tomato sauce with garlic and oregano.
The Phoenix Pastifico
1250 Addison St. Suite 109
(Cross street: Bonar
)Berkeley, CA 94702
I chickened out. Yesterday, I stopped by, wanting to buy some pasta. Nice park and brick building. I can't believe I never knew it was there. I was there just before noon, and they were setting up the tables outside. I saw a door with a sign that said employees only. It was open and I peeked in... Saw something about pasta scrawled on a board... Feeling foolish, I left. Now, rereading your post it looks like I should have gone into Cafe Zest. Into the kitchen??? Where is this "tattered piece of paper" with the list of pastas? Where do I pay? I'd like to try again.
Yeah, the first time I went I chickened out initially ... but since I went through all the trouble of finding the place, I walked to the counter and asked where Phoenix Pastifico was.
Basically the restaurant has two rooms. The first has the register and is always open. The other room to the right seems to be used as a storage room during the week. It is the door in the back of that room that has the piece of paper tacked to it. Just inside the kitchen are the old printed pasta menus that are available at farmers markets.
Really, once you poke your head in the kitchen door and someone sees you, they are just so welcoming and nice. I just wait at the kitchen door and call out 'hello' if no one notices me. What is also cool is that unlike the farmers markets they will let you mix and match the ravioli. You don't have to buy a pound of a single type.
When I asked if I had to buy a pound or could I buy less, he was really nice and said I could buy any amount I wanted and in any combo ... of course, they wouldn't cut a single ravioli in half ... :-)
I didn't take advantage and did a mix of half sweet pea and half goat cheese ... though with me the temptation is always to say one of each ... but I'll pace myself and order different kinds on different visits.
If you get lost again, just ask at the Cafe Zeste counter. On Saturdays during the music program there are more people, so the second room becomes a restaurant room with the boxes of lemons removed.
I'm not sure if Phoenix only takes cash. That was the policy in the old location. I paid with cash so the issue didn't come up. They handed me the bread, sauce and ravioli, I gave them the dough ... so to speak ... and got back change.
Thanks to you rworange, I went there Friday. Wasn't sure if I was in the right place, but just asked where the counter was and they said "this is it". They couldn't have been nicer or more accomodating. Thank goodness, I bought two olive breads, (right out of the oven) because we devoured one on the way home. I bought some fresh corn pasta that the baker reccommended and we will have that tomorrow night with a Beef Ragu. The chocolate cookies, well they lasted a minute or so with our 4 pm tea break. I am thrilled to find this place and will plan some future meals accordingly. Also, I wanted to mention that they have a pasta made with spelt. This is very helpful for people who have a gluten intolerence.(Celiac)
Next on the journey is the June Taylor jam shop on Fourth Street. Sometimes, I have to pinch myself that I live in foodie heaven.