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Aug 1, 2008 09:57 PM

Corso hitting its stride

Had a exceptional meal tonight at Corso.
Started with the frito misto and the trio of crostini. Frito was the only somewhat miss - the shellfish and other items were cut too small and the breading too thick that nothing was identifiable. The fried breading was tasty with the aioli but not distinctive. The crostini was very good as all three toppings were rich and favorful. The chicken liver crositini with fresh herbs was especially memorable, some of the best chicken liver I've had - which is quite a bit...
Had a second course of tagliatelle with sugo and marscapone polenta. The sugo was rich and meaty - as good as sugo gets. The polenta was almost pudding like in texture from the high percentage of marscapone. Really tasty and an novel texture. Paired well with the rich sugo.
Main course was the whole fish (branzino) which was oven roasted to perfection. The skin was crispy and tasty, the flesh was moist and tasty. The server left the deboning to me, which was fine, but could be troublesome for someone less familiar with how to debone a whole fish. The veggies with the fish, a mix of greens and eggplant and red pepper and capers was a great compliment to the roasted fish. Was some of the best whole fish I have had.
Finished with the chocolate torta and the oven roasted peach. The torta was good not great, but the peach was fantastic with pastachio and zabaglione.
Had a glass of grignolino (Bricco del Bosco Accornero Piedmont 06) which was OK not great - but a good wine to start with. Also has Aglianico del Vulture Grifalco Basilicata 04 which was obviously a wine of more substance and good with food. With desert had a recioto with paired well with the chocolate cake - and helped with the somewhat dry cake.

Total tab for 3: $207 including tax and tip
Included 500L grignolino. 750 ml Aglianico. 1 glass recioto.
2 appetizers
1 primi course
1 fish course
2 desserts

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  1. Is there the same chef now as when they opened? I heard some talk about a change?

    1 Reply
    1. re: AIG

      The chef is Wendy Brucker, the co-owner and chef of Rivoli, so that's not likely to change.

    2. Thanks for the report!

      1788 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

      1. Props to Corso for, among the framed menus from Florentine restaurants on the walls, giving prominent place to our favourite, the humble Trattoria Mario. Unfortunately, that only accentuates the gap between what they're trying to do and what they achieve. They're aiming at something like Dopo or Pizzaiolo, but they're not there yet.

        Fritto misto ($12) had only a couple of token slices of lemon; I liked the breading but the frying temperature was too low and the result too oily. It was mostly calamari. Tagliatelle al sugo ($12) had a good flavour; this was the most successful dish of the night for me. Of the pizzas, only the funghi (with truffle oil) stood out. The side dishes were nice, but paying $6 for about a quarter-cup of spinach or $7 for a half-cup of cranberry beans seemed a bit excessive. In fact, the prices were generally too high, the portions too small, and the flavours not quite assertive enough. Some positive movement along any of these axes would dispose me better towards the place. (I have these problems with Rivoli, too, so it's not surprising.) The roast peach was nice but subdued, and the crostata was not like any crostata I've had in Italy; the crust was strudel-like, and there was too much sugar on top of the nectarines.

        Service was friendly but confused, even though we were the first party into the place when it opened. The five of us each ordered two dishes and gave them carte blanche to serve as they were ready, with the result that four of us got a first course and had to feed the youngest and slowest eater off our plates.Why her pasta came in the second wave when three of us had first-wave pasta, I do not know. All the pizzas arrived in the second wave, but two were piping-hot and the third stone-cold. (Its recipient did not complain until afterwards, or I would have sent it back.)

        I like the concept and the location, but I'm going to wait for more positive reports before I go back. Kudos to the Rivoli people for trying something new, though. --PR

        2 Replies
        1. re: Prabhakar Ragde

          Drat. "Not there yet" was exactly the feeling four or five weeks ago. I hope they start to get it together.

          I'm surprised at the total price in the initial report. They're definitely using the side dishes as a way of sneaking in some more earnings; but two of us, eating and drinking well, got out of there for about $80 total.

          I ran into a Rivoli waitressperson at the Albatross a couple of weeks back and we were talking about Corso and her claim was not only are they aiming for a Florentine style, but there's one very specific restaurant they're attempting to reduplicate. Unfortunately, the name is lost to me in the haze. ??

          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

            Our dinner for two in June was $51 before drinks, tax, and tip, and the portions of the side dishes seemed reasonable.


        2. Had another very good meal at Corso last night.

          Started with a chicken-broth minestrone ($7) and what they called panzotti ($11), which instead of the usual half-moons were sheets of pasta folded over to make big rectangles. Both delicious. Pasta was a bit undersalted.

          Then we shared a whole branzino ($27) with spinach ($6), cannellini beans ($7), and green beans with pancetta ($7). The sides aren't the bargain Pizzaiolo's are, but at $23 each it was overall a very good value for an entree. This is my favorite fish dish right now.

          For dessert we got a mushroom and white truffle oil pizza bianca ($13). Tasty but for that style of pizza I prefer Dopo.

          Of the six wines we tried, the Lagrein and Refosco rosati and the Lucignano Chianti were standouts. They now offer a choice of four pours: taste, half glass, glass, and 500ml.

          Service was good. We got there around 9:00 and the place wasn't full, though it was still busy. With 6.5 glasses of wine and tax the bill was $146 before tip.