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May 23, 2006 03:52 AM

Eccolo disappoints no matter how many times we go

  • r

Hounds~We continue to try and like Eccolo on 4th in Berkeley. However, while the food is good the service is ABYSMAL! We made reservations for an early seating this past Sunday and watched as other tables seated after ours were both waited on and got food before we did. Our waitperson was German I think and seemed oblivious when we did see him and invisible when we were looking for him. I finally asked the hostess about being waited on. Our lunches came a good 1/2 hour after sitting down (nothing fancy, very straightforward). Clearly something was amiss again.
We left deciding we could get coffee in reasonable time up the street. I do not know what is the problem with this place. I've taken seats at the bar and waited long while when the bar tender had tables in the far dining room to wait as well. This past Sunday with 11:30 reservations was the worst. We were among the first people seated and still service was a big minus!! There seems to be an excess of busfolks and not enough wait staff..the wait staff also seems to change like the wind. Perhaps, this is some of the problem.

We've sworn off the place for awhile and will hope to find something better soon in the area.

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  1. r
    Robert Lauriston

    Eccolo's service problems are beside the point for me. In that neighborhood, O Chame and Cafe Rouge have food that's just as good or better for significantly less money. In Eccolo's price range, Oliveto does a similar style, only better.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Last weekend was graduation, so maybe some slack is called for at all Berkeley area restuarants.

      My sense of menu pricing is that Eccolo has dropped down a bit and offers bigger portions than my previous visits, so that it isn't that big a step up from Cafe Rouge any more and is a notch down from Oliveto. I've felt that Oliveto's wine list has a higher mark-up than Eccolo, making one's overall tab higher. However, looking at individual bottles on both lists, there are examples on each side of the argument. Eccolo has 03 Pallieres for $46 and 03 Terre Primitivo for $32 vs. Oliveto at $56 and $26, respectively.


      1. re: Melanie Wong
        Robert Lauriston

        Oliveto's wine list has gotten more reasonable in the last year or so. In addition to lowering their markup, they've added got more interesting bottles at the lower end of the price range, and more properly aged reds at the higher end. And I love how they've split the whites and reds up based on style.

        Who does their list, anyway?

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Yeah, I'm out of touch and was surprised when I looked at it today. Generally, I like a "progressive" wine list by style. Googling for Oliveto and "wine director", an expired April listing on craigslist popped up, so maybe there's a new incumbent.

          1. re: Melanie Wong
            Robert Lauriston

            They've also been doing a great job of coming up with additional wines to match the Whole Hog and other special-event dinners. Some of which are announced on short notice only to their email list.

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          Visited Eccolo for the first time last night after seeing raves re: fries in the Chron. The fries were fabulous at $6.00. I think well priced.

          However, everything else seemed way over priced for the portion. Hamburger while quite good was $16.50 with only a few homemade chips.

          We didn't order their $45.00 ribeye. That seemed way out of line.

        3. re: Robert Lauriston

          Just to show how subjective this all is, we have been to Eccolo three times in the past two months and have always had fine service and food. To me the food tastes just as good as Chez Panisse Cafe and the place is easier to get into (eg - you can often walk in and get a table) and costs less in our experience. I have been to Oliveto twice and never understood the big deal about that place, both service and food.

          The two times I've been to Cafe Rouge did not particularly impress me and I don't care at all for Ochame's "Japanese" cuisine, which I have found to be very overpriced for what it is. Stopped going there years ago. :-)

          1. re: Wendy-san
            Robert Lauriston

            Everything I've had to eat at Eccolo has been good except some grainy housemade mozzarella, but on the other hand out of five meals the only dish that was exceptional enough that I can remember it was a fritto misto with razor clams.

            In contrast, I can remember lots of great dishes from Dopo, Pizzaiolo, Oliveto, and Chez Panisse Cafe.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I wouldn't argue that Eccolo overall is better than the great places on that list. On food and price (though not hassle), I'd choose Pizzaiolo over Eccolo any day. However, the pasta with chicken livers and pork belly at Eccolo was exceptional, to my taste. Better than anything I've had at Cafe Rouge.

        4. We went on Sunday evening and were also less than thrilled with the service. And less than thrilled with the food. The only dish that we oohed and aahed over was my excellent veal chop. The fritto misto left the kitchen without being salted and tasted flat. The burrata/asparagus/prosciutto salad was just three piles sitting there on the plate, and sure the burrata was great, but so what. Desserts were especially forgettable. We've decided to stick to Oliveto.

          1. I'm not sure I agree with comparing Oliveto's menu (see lunch sample menu below), with Eccolo's menu (see lunch sample menu from yesterday below).

            Oliveto's lunch sample menu from their website:

            Salads and Soup
            Belgian Endive with Dried Apricots, Pecorino, and Pine Nuts 9.00
            Conserva of Chanterelle Mushrooms, mozzarella di bufala, and rapini 9.50
            Knoll Farm Arugula with Avocado, Radish, and House-Cured Pancetta 9.50
            Celery Root, Potato, and Green Garlic Soup 8.00
            Garden Lettuces Vinaigrette 8.00

            Oliveto salumi
            Salametto 7.00
            Campagna 6.00
            Soppressata 7.00
            Hot salami 7.00
            Bresaola 7.00

            Pastas and Main Courses
            Tagliolini with Local Sand Dabs 14.50
            Radiatore with Spicy Lamb sugo and ricotta salata 13.50
            Whole Wheat pappardelle with Braised Hoffman Farm Hen 14.00
            Monkfish with 'cipolline' Onions and Black Trumpet Mushrooms 15.50
            Roast Paine Farm Pigeon with Pea Greens 13.50

            Blood Orange granita 6.00
            Chocolate Macaroon gelato 6.00
            Steamed Winter Pudding with Brandied Custard Sauce 6.00
            Bittersweet Chocolate Cake 6.00
            Almond-Anise biscotti 2.25

            Eccolo's lunch menu from 8/3:

            Garden lettuces with toasted almonds and ricotta salata $8.50
            Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with feta cheese and kalamata olives $9.00
            House-cured Italian meats and farm house cheeses (for two) $16.00
            Marinated olives or spicy roasted almonds $5.00
            Summer carrot soup with cucumber-yogurt sauce $7.50

            Specials for Friday, August 3rd
            Handmade ricotta lasagna with zucchini and basil pesto $16.50
            Roasted eggplant rolls stuffed with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato sauce $16.00
            Roast beef sandwich with peppers and onions on ciabatta roll $14.00
            Linguine with clams, white wine, garlic and hot pepper $17.00
            Dungeness crab omelette with spicy avocado $18.00
            Smoked salmon omelette with crème fraîche $16.00
            Goat cheese omelette with garden lettuces $14.00

            Entrée Salads

            Tomato, goat cheese and avocado salad $13.50

            Eccolo chopped salad $12.50 with grilled chicken $17.50

            Fuji apple and English cheddar salad with candied walnuts $14.00

            Pan-fried chicken and Stilton cheese salad with Belgian endive $15.00

            Wild roasted King salmon with beets, cucumbers, and garden lettuces $19.50

            Deep-fried squid and frisée salad with spicy lime vinaigrette $15.00


            Baked halibut with wilted greens and tomato salsa $18.00

            Chicken crisped “under a brick” with heirloom tomato salad $16.50

            Three Dungeness crab cakes with lemon mayonnaise $19.00

            served on Acme breads

            BLT with avocado, heirloom tomatoes, and Hobb’s applewood smoked bacon $13.00

            Italian house-made prosciutto, tomato, and fresh mozzarella sandwich with pesto $13.50

            Sicilian tuna sandwich with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and aïoli $14.00

            Grilled cheese with mozzarella, mimolette, cheddar and Gruyère $9.50

            Grilled Niman Ranch bavette steak on toasted ciabatta roll $16.00

            Grilled ham and Gruyère Croque-monsieur $11.00

            Wood-Grilled ½ pound Hamburgers
            Eccolo Burger with caramelized onions $12.00

            white cheddar Pt. Reyes blue heirloom tomato
            crisp bacon aïoli spicy guacamole
            $2.50 each

            Marco’s burger with melted cheddar and spicy guacamole $16.00
            Triple garlic burger with garlic butter, aïoli and whole roasted garlic $15.50

            Cheddar cheese, Hobbs’ smoked bacon, blue cheese, or heirloom tomatoes $2.50 each
            Tuscan fries with rosemary and sage $6.00
            Side of fregola salad with black olives, lemon zest and savory $6.00


            Coffee gelato $8.00
            A bowl of summer fruit $7.50
            Fruit crisp with vanilla bean ice cream $8.50
            Honey pot de crème with blackberries $8.00
            Dark chocolate cake with caramel and sweet cream $9.00
            Middleton Gardens raspberry tartlette with bittersweet chocolate $8.50
            Hot fudge sundae with toasted almonds, whipped cream and Amarena cherry $8.50

            To me, Oliveto's is clearly more Italian in nature, whereas Eccolo's definitely has some Italian influence, but is a bit more American with their hamburger's and sandwiches. I can see value to both places, but don't really see them as comparable, and I most certainly wouldn't compare Eccolo to Pizzaiolo... totally different styles altogether.

            1 Reply
            1. re: chemchef

              Eccolo's lunch menu is much more American / California than its dinner menu. It's almost a different restaurant.

              I've eaten dinner at Eccolo half a dozen times and at Oliveto every couple of months, always for dinner. They're doing very much the same kind of rustic Italian food, though Oliveto's better at it.

            2. One thing I will say about Eccolo is that their management is great about responding to complaints. We had similarly bad service when my husband took me to Eccolo for the first time a couple of years ago. He had gone there several times before for work and had great experiences. But when he took me there for a celebratory something or other, the service was totally indifferent and also the menu was a bit odd that day--everything had arugula in it for some reason, but I digress. Anyways, my husband wrote an email telling the managers how disappointed he was that I didn't have the same great experience there that he had had in previous visits. Not only did the manager respond, but invited us to eat there, on the house. He gave us a great table (for four people, even though we were only two) and included drinks in the whole on-the-house offer. We had a great meal and really liked the fact that the folks there were so responsive. We will probably be lifers after having had that experience.