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May 3, 2007 11:41 AM

Berkeley – Breakfast at Riva Cucina – VERY pleasant, very organic, very good … croissants from Italy

This has to be one of the most pleasant and pretty cafes in the East Bay … and breakfast was great.

This restaurant serves breakfast and lunch and take-out dinners. They close at 7pm.

For breakfast there are three egg dishes, fresh fruit with Cow Girl Creamery cottage cheese and breakfast pastries.

The croissants are from Italy. The flour needed to make these isn’t available in this country so they have the unbaked croissants sent from Italy and bake them in the morning.

Unlike French croissants these are light and delicate without the crunchy exterior. Both the regular and chocolate are very nice. The bakery started with "La" and is somewhere in Italy ... ring any bells (g)?

I had sformato alla vedure ... a light puffy quiche/frittata like dish that had ricotta, zucchini, carrots and spinach mixed in and was topped with the lightest, loveliest béchamel sauce. This dish is lighter than either a quiche or frittata … more like a soufflé. Made to order and warm it was very nice.

It looked a little like this but puffier with bechemel sauce on top.

It comes with two lovely pieces of toasted Acme organic filone … a light white bread.

There is nice attention to detail. The orange slice had scalloped edges and was topped with a fanned strawberry.

Other breakfast dishes today …

- Uova in nido: poached eggs over toasted organic filone and spinach toasted with butter
- Frittata con mozzarella e pancetta

Coffee is Illy and excellent. Taylor Made loose teas are available.

For lunch / dinner they have a set menu and a daily changing menu. As of 8am this morning they hadn’t settled on today’s menu. Yesterday some of the specials were

- GRIGLIATA DI CAPESANTE AGLI ASPARAGI: Grilled fresh scallops with Full Belly Farm asparagus, saffron-lemon condimento

- Spiedini al la griglia: Grilled skewer of prawns and squid lightly breaded served with tomatoes, basil

- Tagliolini neri al pesce: Squid ink pasta with mussels, squid, fresh tomato, basil

- Gnocchi al gorgonzola: Potato dumplings sauted with radicchio, gorgonzola and béchamel

Torta al cioccolato
Torta al marscarpone
Lemon sorbet

They had a killer-looking cheese cake topped with strawberries today.

Child-friendly ... there is a special children's menu. Talking about the outdoor area the website says ". It is also home to a garden we planted with the children at Aquatic Park School next door. Together, we grow herbs and learn about eating well."

I worried about that when I stopped by yesterday to see if they served more than pastries. The pre-school, though across the way, in no way intrudes on the area. If there wasn't a sign, I would have never known it was there though it was in full-swing this morning.

The staff has to be one of the most pleasant and welcoming in the Bay Area. The space is among the prettiest and more relaxing.

There are outdoor tables with green umbrellas on the piazza … and I’m sorry … I know this is Berkeley but it IS a piazza with a pretty running fountain.

Indoors there are wooden tables topped with terra cotta pots with basil, rosemary and olive plants. Diana Krall was crooning some jazzy ballads as the background music … at a good unintrusive level.

They said the business was geared for the local offices … the place to get a cup of coffee, pastry, and light breakfast before work, enjoy lunch, and stop buy for a drink or snack after work … or pick up dinner to take home.

Though they have pizza on the website, it is not on the current menu. No alcohol yet as they are still working with the right wine to pair with the food.

VERY organic. There is a seawatch card on the counter. Even the olive oil and balsamic vinegar are organic.

In this heads-up chowhound post, the link to the East Bay Express blog makes it seem more upscale than it is. It is a casual café where you order at the counter and food is brought to the table.

Really interesting background on one of the owners.

It is off 7th near Ashby ... a block from Cafe Cacoa and near 900 Grayson.
I’ll definitely be back.

Riva Cucina

800 Heinz Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701
510 841 RIVA (7482

Closed Saturday and Sunday
Monday – Friday: 7:30AM - 7:00PM

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  1. Thanks for the report. Can you elaborate a bit more on the take out dinner? If I showed up at 5:30 or 6 could I eat there, or is dinner exclusively take-out? With those hours, I'm afraid I'll never be able to try this place, much as I would like to.

    5 Replies
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Either way. When I asked about the unusual hours, they said they wanted to stay open late enough so people would have the option of having dinner after work before going home or stop by to pick up dinner to take home.

        I think this is the type of place you would really like. I know you've mentioned lunch at 900 Grayson. Give this a spin. Much prettier and more relaxed. It is nice to have Italian food in the area. The young husband/wife owners are very personable. The sous chef from Olivetto was easy to identify ... heh ... the only person in the place with an intense serious look.

        Anyway, I think you would like it and your boss would like it. If you guys can make it to 900 Grayson, you can make it here. The parking while not wonderful, is better too. I'm looking forward to your opinion on Riva Cucina.

        For being open three days, I was very impressed. Couldn't find any opening glitches. I can only imagine this place getting better and better as it settles in.

        1. re: rworange

          Cool. Good to know we have a reasonably priced dinner option in town.

          95% of my meals at 900 Grayson are for Saturday brunch. Unfortunately, those weekday only hours will prevent me from eating there as much as I might like.

          1. re: rworange

            Maybe I was just lucky, but there is a small parking lot behind the restaurant that is free if you can manage to find a spot. Great report, I'll head down there to try that breakfast one of these days!

            1. re: liujenny

              Thanks for the parking tip ... the link to your recent lunch report

        2. Great post, can't wait to stop by over the week-end. Transatlantic croissants sound a little precious but worth a comparison tasting. These folks may not have their service protocol down yet (see above post), but their website is up and running, user-friendly and stylish (how nice to having the changing-daily menu posted daily).

          2 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              Ok, so I chow better than I read.

          1. I tried their shipped-from-Italy croissants yesterday, both the chocolate and the lemon custard (or something lemon) ones. Actually, I'm not sure if the chocolate one was a croissant or a pain-au-chocolat... anyhow, the texture of the two were quite different, the chocolate one being more crispy through the layers while the lemon one was a bit chewy. I liked them both though... here's a picture of the chocolate pastry.