Cioccolata Di Vino (Berkeley)
I thought I'd start a new thread, since the old one starts mostly with a lot of speculation about what the place is going to be called, when it will open, etc. Here's the link to that old thread:
As I mentioned in my post on that thread, I've only been to Cioccolata Di Vino one time and had a lemon tart that was fine, but certainly didn't blow me away. Nevertheless, the place seems to have promise--lots of intriguing items on the menu, both in terms of savory small plates as well as desserts. The atmosphere seems quite elegant--certainly aspiring to be more than just a place you go to grab a slice of cake to go, which was how I was treating it, probably making my experience not the most representative.
So...has anyone gone for more of an actual meal and sampled some of the Italian small plates--the cheeses, the crostinis, etc. Have any of the desserts that folks have sampled really stood out?
A review just came out in the East Bay Express this. Stafford, the writer, listed the stuffed eggplant rolls, the chocolate polenta cake, and the chocolate chip pecan cookies as standouts (though I thought his description didn't make it sound altogether appetizing to me: "like nuts and candy chunks barely held together with a spoonful of undercooked dough: perhaps better than the best Toll Houses.").
Here's the link to that review: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/restaur...
Cioccolata di Vino
1801 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA
Went there from a tip from a friend. No, we did not eat, but bellied up to the bar. We got a three-glass sampler of dessert wines for only thirteen bucks: one each from Sonoma, Sicilia, and Sherry. All very good, and the menu descriptions for each one was very accurate. Not a bad deal, since the price of admission is what one usually pays for just one glass.
On advice from the waiter, we also got some “Banyuls”, I think about ten bucks per glass. I loved it: ambrosia, and sort of like liquid raisins. For fun, we were not eating, but got a few orders of chocolate chip cookies: we got 3 per, at about 4 or 5 bucks per order. Kinda mediocre, some soft some crunchy, tasted like a commercial raw dough baked recently in the kitchen; clearly not Toll House type.
My husband and I tried to get in here last Friday night and it was full, so we came back later in the evening and tried it out. Yum! I loved the pizza with fennel and caramelized onions. I wish they delivered to Baltimore. We also split a salad and the pasta special, which was a little spicy for me. The food was simple and perfect for a light dinner... best thing it was totally affordable. I think our whole bill was around $25 for dinner and dessert. We have family in Berkelely and turned them on to this place as well. I have been DREAMING out the cinnamon hot cocoa... Check it out because I want that hot cocoa next time I'm in town... The lemon tart was also yummy.
I just went there tonight! First, I have to say that I am in love with the concept. I've always secretly wanted to own a dessert and wine bar, and many times I think when it would be too expensive to go out, it would be nice to go somewhere just for a dessert and a nice glass of wine.
That said, they also have a really nice selection of savory small plates, which are WAAAY better priced than those at, say, Cesar. Though tonight I had a selection of both, so it didn't really end up cheaper than dinner at a mid-range restaurant...
I had (shared) a prosciutto wrapped cheese drizzled with a basil oil (cheese = can't remember the name of, online menu not updated...!), then the bruscetta di caprino, and finally the involtini di melanzane. Everything was really fantastic. PARTICULARLY the involtini. For dessert, I had chocolate-polenta cake, which was really nice, moist, etc, and my husband had the affogato (espresso on vanilla gelato) -- the gelato was really amazing. I had a glass of the "Aspirino" bubbly and hubby had the red wine flight. Everything was really tasty and our server was very good.
It's a really different vibe than other "small plates" places in the east bay -- much less "bar"-like, more cafe like. Better for a date... quieter... actually when I was there all the other customers were groups of women. It would a great place for wine and dessert after work with the gals.
Plus, it's open late -- 11pm on weekends!
Spurred by the review and your mention of the lemon tart, i stopped by today. Thanks for starting a new topic.
- Potato and aspargus frittata
- Spaghetti a' la Puttanesca
- Marzemino Terre di Gioia Trentino 2006
- Rhone de Robles Robert Hall Central Coast 2006
- Hot chocolate
It was pleasant ... very, very pleasant
The coffee is a good Equator roast and they are generous with the refills. At $2, this was a deal.
I think the EBE oversold the frittata. I liked it but it was in a small souffle ramekin.
Given this wasn't going to fill me up even with dessert, I went for the special of the day.
That was nicely done. They slightly chunky sauce with the right amount of olives and capers. There are anchovies in this dish and they didn't overwhelm or call attention to themselves, only adding another layer of flavor. Everything worked together. The special of the day is $1 off between 11 am and 2 pm. Usually it is $5.95, but the pasta was imported and so the lunch special today was $6.95.
Another nice thing was that half glasses of wine are offered and the pours were generous. Even more shocking was the server actually knew what wine paired with what dishes and talked intelligently about what it paired with ... unlike a certain new restaurant which shall be unamed ... but it is deep in the heart of Temescale ... where the bartender ... the bartender, mind you ... had no clue about what wine to order.
Anyway the Rhone was her suggestion which she said paired well with many of the dishes and was a nice drinking wine on its. own. She was right on both counts. It was one of those rare, for me, moments when the wine is so on spot, making the food even tastier.
I just wasn't in the mood for dessert, so I thought I tried a hot chocolate. This was really lovely. There was a nice foaminess to it and I can't remember a hot chocolate I've been more pleased with in a long, long time. They used Callebaut chocolate.
They have three other flavors of hot chocolate ... vanilla bean, cinnamona and spice, chai.
This is a comfortable place and relaxing to read the Sunday paper sitting next to a sunny window.
Nothing was a wow factor, but the food was well done and pleasant is a good thing here.
That being said ... there are a few niits.
While they are building business, the breakfast pastries are limited to cookies and scones.When I dropped by a few weeks (months?) back, I only thought the scone was ok. It kept me from rushing back.
The wine prices struck me as reasonable. They have flights as well. Each dish has a suggested wine pairing.
However, the prices seem a tad high for what you get. I know they are using quality ingrediants. They are probably realistically pricing dishes. But what you see is what you get ... pasta on a dish ... a small ramekin of frittata.
If that is the case, they need to put the option of ordering bread. There needs to be a better selection of salads. There is one green salad available and I wasn't interested in it.
I was curious about the cookie, but I just couldn't bring myself to paying almost $4 for a cookie.
Will I be back? Yep.
I like the half glass wine option.
I'll probably stop by and give the other hot chocolate a try
I'd get the daily special again.
I do want to try some of the desserts. They also have wine pairing suggestions and those look interesting.
There were enough people in there not to make it feel empty. Also, they seem to know a lot of the customers, so it is doing something right to build a customer base. They really are nice people.
Since the review, when I do drive by I am finally starting to see people in there ... not a ton of people,but before it always seemed empty.
They are also kid-friendly. A couple came in with a baby and they had a high chair. It is small, but there are a few nooks where you can get a little privacy. Also, it is easy to get outside if the baby fusses ... though this baby was really good.
Thanks for the report--I haven't had a chance to go back yet, but would like to soon. Good coffee and hot chocolate definitely sounds like a big plus! And I like the idea of the pasta of the day and the frittata of the day.
I agree that the prices look a bit high, but I guess it doesn't seem as bad if I think of it as Italian tapas--could probably have dinner and dessert still get out for a bit less than at, say, Cesar or Barlata (point duly noted).
Incidentally, it seems from the review, and from the website, that you do get more than just one cookie for that $4. So maybe that's still worth a try.
Don't know anything about dessert wines, so I'd be interested in hearing about those...