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Dec 23, 2008 03:16 PM

Eccolo: Omigod

This was my second go round w/Eccolo and in some ways it was better than the first; in others it was a hard-to-believe meal of many mishaps. Eight of my colleagues went out for a farewell lunch. The restaurant was lovely, the street festive in the holiday spirit, the menu looked tantalizing. We started w/the Humboldt Fog/membrillo, walnut appetizer along w/Tuscan fries and the fried artichoke w/aoli. Everything was delicious. The fries, sticklike and sliced paper-thin and fried w/herbs, were the biggest hit. The artichokes were tasty, but rather oily. Next came the mains. Two of us ordered burgers and neither was asked how she'd like it cooked. But one said that she wanted it medium to well. The burgers came; they looked lovely. Both were raw inside. Both were sent back. Three of us ordered the chicken cooked crisp under a brick w/a salad of farro, fuyu persimmon, red onion and walnuts. We were eating for five minutes before we all realized there wasn't a persimmon in sight. After being told of the omission, our waitress returned with three plates of persimmon for us to add to our salads. This made all the difference. One colleague ordered the side salad of butternut squash, farro, and red onion. He was partway in before he realized that the orange chunks in his salad were persimmon and not squash! Upon being notified, our waitress said that the menu had been printed incorrectly. The salad was supposed to include persimmon, not butternut squash. What a comedy of errors! Our waitress was a sweetheart and, as an apology from the kitchen, brought us out one of every dessert on the menu on the house. The affogato was good; all the others were very mediocre. Good thing they were free. So I've been there twice...once for dinner, once for lunch. All I can say is, I'm glad I've never paid.

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    1820 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

    1. This is probably my favorite place for a leisurely lunch these days. I walked over with a couple of friends last Sunday and spent all afternoon on the patio enjoying:

      V-Solo Verdejo (Spanish grape similar to Sauvignon Blanc): light tart aromatic white served very cool but not refrigerator-cold, perfect for a summer afternoon outside. Reminiscent of a Vinho Verde but without the fizz.

      "Roman-style" fried artichokes with aïoli: these tidbits aren't like any artichokes I ever saw in Rome, but they're a great bar snack.

      "Tuscan" fries: sliced very thin, end up more like potato chips than French fries, lots of salt and herbs, again a great bar snack.

      Bruschetta salad with ricotta, heirloom tomatoes, and basil: nice summery cold dish. Given the warm weather, my one complaint about that day's brunch menu was that it was a little short on cold dishes.

      Morgon Brunet: this was a bit too warm so we iced it.

      Salumi plate (off-menu): nice selection of house-made cold cuts and a few cheeses.

      Sand dabs: perfectly cooked, tender and moist inside but crispy outside. The server warned us that this was a bit small for three to share, looking at the bill I guess she charged an extra $3 and had the kitchen bump up the portion size.

      Patrimonio (Sangiovese) Leccia: a medium-bodied wine from Corsica similar to a good old-school Chianti. Good match for the richer meat dishes that follow.

      Steak and eggs with salsa verde: I always order this when they have it. Perfectly grilled bavette, nice char on the outside, juicy inside, and the combination of egg yolk and the tangy sauce is incredible.

      Ham and cheese panino: a variation on their Croque Monsieur, with baguette instead of levain and minus the Bechamel sauce (or with so little I couldn't taste it). This was a great panino but not as sublime as the old levain version. On the other hand, it wasn't as filling, which at this point was a good thing.

      Tomato salad (off-menu): made a nice side for the meat dishes.

      Mencia Benaza: I was afraid this would be too heavy and oaky but it was balanced and food-friendly.

      Porchetta (from the dinner menu): lovely roast pork.

      We got some almonds to nibble on while we finished our wine. They comped us coffee and desserts.

      Six delightful hours, came to a little over $100 a head before tip. Next time I'm there I'm going to have to see what brand of chairs they have on the patio, in retrospect it was surprising that they were comfortable for all that time.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        The news in the Chronicle is that Eccolo is closing by the end of the month (August 2009).

          1. re: Paul H

            I liked this place.

            Decor-wise -- it was my ideal. I wonder what it's going to become.

        1. I'm totally sad that it's closing. Today's tablehopper says that the last service will be August 22nd.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JasmineG

            Does anyone know the reason? Was business down? It looked busy enough to me but maybe it was not enough to turn a profit.

            1. re: walker

              From today's tablehopper:

              In an email, chef Christopher Lee stated, "Things simply didn't turn out the way we thought they would. I'm soon putting together my next project, a old-fashioned butcher shop that will sell top-quality fresh meats, lots of my own salumi including prosciutto, a few modest wines, good olive oils, vinegars, condiments, handmade pastas, even do custom dry aging for customers. It's an exciting project and I'm really looking forward to it. We may even cook a set menu (maybe with a few add-ons) for a few tables two or three nights a week! Location TBA. It's that or move to Spain."

              There should be more in tomorrow's Chronicle.