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Really great East Bay desserts?

I like to go to restaurants just to have dessert. I usually go to San Francisco to do this but would like to find good ideas in the Oakland/Berkeley area. The desserts don't have to be fancy - rustic is fine. . as long as they are good. Also, a plus is a restaurant that would welcome that kind of business as I have encountered a couple of places that were less than enthusiastic when learning I simply wanted to order dessert and wine or coffee.

Please share your favorites.

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  1. Chez Panisse cafe has always been friendly and gracious when I have gone for dessert. Of course is is usually after 9:00pm so things are not hectic. Cafe Esin in San Ramon is another place that is incredibly hospitable to my "just dessert" times.

    1. This is a great round-up by Maria Lorraine:

      http://www.oaklandmagazine.com/media/...

      Note that Zax has closed.

      I'd add the incredible Zeppole at Dopo and any fruit from the wood fire oven at Pizzaiolo.

      1. probably not what the OP is looking for but i may just have a new favorite
        item at crixa: the lemon creme cake ... or something like that.

        if you are looking for an afternoon place, check it out.
        not an evening option, and they do sell out of some things late in the day.

        1. Olvieto has great desserts.

          The desserts at Cafe Tibet can be great--the chef worked under Emily Luchetti at Stars and Farallon. Once or twice the usually great ginger crème brûlée was curdled--it's a somewhat shoestring operation so I think sometimes they serve things that a fancy restaurant would toss.

          7 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            "Serve things that a fancy restaurant would toss." Does that mean they do not obey the health codes? As in "curdled=gone bad past its serve-by?"

            No amount of shoe-stringness justifies that, if that's what you're saying.

            1. re: lintygmom

              Curdled doesn't mean spoiled, it means that it was cooked improperly and the proteins coagulated in lumps instead of uniformly. It doesn't look good or have the "right" texture so most places wouldn't serve it, but it's not unhealthy.

              I'm surprised that Oliveto has great desserts, since Italian cuisine isn't known for its great desserts (although I did have some fabulous tiramisu in Venice, which has a strong Austrian influence). I thought Oliveto strove for authenticity?

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                Ms.Lafler, from what I could tell from multiple visits to Oliveto over the last decade and one trip to Liguria, Tuscany, and Milan, they're authentic Cal-Ital serving a clientele that likes up-market desserts, and staff a 'dessert chef' accordingly. We go to Pizzaiolo now instead, where we've always enjoyed excellent desserts. To my very subjective sensibility the calif-cuisine thing has a French influence, probably due to the training regimen many of the present day 'culinary artisans' go through.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I guess that depends on what you consider "great desserts". I have an Italian step-father with a huge sweet tooth and we are constantly whipping up great Italian desserts!

                  Granted they are more rustic in nature than their French neighbors, but they are no less great.

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    Oliveto's fixation on sticking to Italian tradition probably started declining when they hired Julie Cookenboo, the pastry chef, a decade ago. Before that, when Paul Bertolli was in charge, the desserts were a joke.

                    Under Paul Canales, they've moved even farther from the Italian tradition. Main courses are often more complciated and mostly now come with sides.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Curdled means the custard didn't set right, not that it's old. Tastes fine, the texture's just not as good. It's like "broken" mayonnaise or grainy fudge, happens occasionally even to the most experienced cooks.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Well, I'd probably like it better, then. I don't like creamy much.

                3. Boy my favorite desserts are the Chocolate Bundino at Garibaldi's on College and the brownie sundae with burnt caramel sauce with a pinch of salt at Sea Salt. I checked Sea Salt's menu and I didn't see it on the current offereings but some others looked good and they do offer a nice selection of cheeses.