Eccolo - Huh??
After hearing from a few foodies I know about the wonders of Eccolo, I was excited when a neighbor wanted to take me to dinner there to celebrate my birthday. Sad to say, I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Glad though that the tab was not mine. I had checked out their website prior to dining there and knew that the prices were more like NYC than Berkeley. Another reason to expect an exceptional dining experience. The restaurant has a relaxed, low-key elegant ambience which I enjoyed. The service was very good. The food, however, was unmemorable and a disappointment. I started with the chicken liver on toasts w/endive and frisee...okay, but nothing to write home about. My own chopped liver is far superior. There wasn't enough taste in theirs. Underseasoning seemed to be the theme of the meal. My main course was a veal chop w/a provencal tomato and, again, frisee, this time w/radicchio. The veal chop was rare, but tough and chewy. The provencal tomato was tasteless. And frisee was old at this point. Nothing was saved by a wonderful sauce. Although the ingredients were fresh, they were awash in tastelessness. My companion's lasagna, in a bechamel/pesto sauce, was similarly dull and flat. The restaurant was less than half full at 7 pm. It doesn't seem to me that people are knocking down the door to Eccolo, although my companion told me that the line was very long for brunch recently. He also told me he greased the palm of the hostess to get his party in ahead of the line. I was appalled. Am I totally naive? Sure, I've seen this in movies and on television, but I've never been with anyone who actually employed this technique for jumping a line. My friends concur that this is an immoral tactic. Curious to know what others think.
I went to Eccolo not too long ago. I have to agree with you on some counts...some of the food was uninspired, although with quality ingredients, decent service, nice environment. I had the veal chop and thought it was good to v.good but not mind blowing. Others had the fish (bland, under seasoned) and the steak salad (good to v. good). My guess was that it switched chefs from the past. I think the added expectation of a b-day might have also left you underwhelmed. At those prices however, probably wouldn't go back although the parking in the evening is very convenient.
I've had five or six good meals at Eccolo. My only problem with it is that it costs about the same as Oliveto (upstairs), which does the same style of food a bit better. So for Italian I'm more inclined to go to Olvieto--or, for less money, Pizzaiolo or Dopo, or Incanto or La Ciccia in the city.
I don't think there's been any change in chefs. It would be big news if Christopher Lee sold it.
We've had nothing but good dinners at Eccolo (about four or five times in the past year). Have never been there for lunch or brunch. Have always made a reservation on the early side and service has always been above average.