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Authentic Italian near Oakland and Berkeley?

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My husband's birthday is this Saturday and I'm trying to finalize the dinner plans! We love authentic al dente Italian ever since our trip to Europe and we like Tommaso in SF but we're looking for a restaurant that take reservations with good service near Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville area. From the research that I did, Dopo, Trattoria La Siciliana, and Riva Cucina look promising but I can't pull the trigger to make the reservation... Any suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated!

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Trattoria La Siciliana
2993 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

Dopo
4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

Riva Cucina
800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

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  1. we have a pronounced preference for Riva Cucina over Dopo, have yet to try la Siciliana. Dopo can be a bit heavy handed with oil and salt, their service isn't as smooth and consistent. The menus and cooking styles of the two don't share that much -- Riva Cucina does not do pizza, has more long/slow cooked courses, and the two places probably have different objectives in their approach to foods. That said, we actually prefer SPQR (Pacific Hts.) to Riva Cucina ; it's more fun, a bit more eclectic with the best fresh pastas in the area that we've tried, perhaps too loud for a birthday dinner. We haven't tried Tommaso, so wouldn't be able to compare the two.

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    Dopo
    4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

    SPQR
    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    Riva Cucina
    800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

    1. Riva Cucina is a good choice. I'd add Corso in Berkeley to your prospects.

      My experience with SPQR was that it's a very good neighborhood restaurant, but not particularly a destination. Personally, I don't think it's worth the schlep across the bridge.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Rapini

        with the fuel prices of the last few years, we don't go to SF solely for a meal, but combine other errands/shopping. (we can walk to Dopo but probably won't return after three tries). we find the ingredients, flavours, textures just a little more vivid and defined at SPQR, with some dishes among the best of their type we've recently experienced.

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        Dopo
        4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

        SPQR
        1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      2. Oliveto serves terrific food. I eat there once or twice a week and always find the food interesting and very flavorful. Especially good are the whole grain pastas. They take reservations.

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        Oliveto Cafe
        5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

        1. Ok! I've decided to go with Riva Cucina. I will do my best to report my experience afterwards! I just wasn't sure about Riva Cucina from reading polarizing reviews. I know there's always people that are super picky and all but consistency is important to me.

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          Riva Cucina
          800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

          1. Dopo does not take reservations but I like it the best of the three you mentioned based strictly on food.

            I went to Riva Cucina and it didn't "wow" me enough to return. The place was almost completely empty when I went on a Saturday night around 7:30 PM.

            Just to add to the list of potential places in the areas you mention:

            Bucci's

            Paisan

            Enoteca Molinari

            Pizzaiolo
            Marzano on Park
            Bellanico

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            Pizzaiolo
            5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            Dopo
            4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

            Riva Cucina
            800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

            Bucci's
            6121 Hollis St, Emeryville, CA 94608

            Marzano
            4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

            Oliveto Restaurant
            5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

            Enoteca Molinari
            5474 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

            Paisan
            2514 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

            1 Reply
            1. re: Scott M

              Dopo does take reservations for large groups. It would be my pick too, though I do like Riva Cucina as long as there isn't that expectation to be "wowed" by anything. It's quieter, if that's a consideration.

              Pizzaiolo is great, but a tough reservation to get this late in the week - and the poster seems mostly interested in pasta, which Dopo, Riva Cucina, and any number of other places do better.

              That said, I hope the OP reports back, wherever she ends up.

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              Pizzaiolo
              5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

              Dopo
              4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

              Riva Cucina
              800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

            2. Thanks everyone! It's really sad but when it came down to making the reservations most places were all booked unless I want to do super early or late reservations. I was able to score a reservation at Trattoria Laurellino on Macarthur Blvd so we'll see how that goes.

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              Trattoria Laurellino
              4171 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland, CA

              7 Replies
              1. re: bonniemo

                Staying the general area, I would rather wait at Boot and Shoe, with a nice cocktail (which doesn't take reservations), or wait for an opening at Bellanico or Marzano, than go to Laurellino, and especially for a special occasion.

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                Bellanico
                4238 Park Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602

                Marzano
                4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

                1. re: foodeye

                  Depends on what they're after, if it's not pizza, I'd rather wait for a table at Dopo -- they can get cocktails down the street at Adesso while they wait. Boot and Shoe is good, but is mainly pizza, and the pastas at Dopo are always fantastic.

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                  Dopo
                  4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                  Adesso
                  4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                2. re: bonniemo

                  I'm really surprised to hear that Riva Cucina is all booked! Well, good for them if business is picking up.

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                  Riva Cucina
                  800 Heinz Ave, Berkeley, CA 94710

                  1. re: bonniemo

                    Please report back. Went shortly after it opened. Food was ok, but service needed work. Keep meaning to go back to see how it developed. We could use good Italian in that area.

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                    Trattoria Laurellino
                    4171 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland, CA

                    1. re: bonniemo

                      There are a lot of reservations available at Oliveto for Saturday night for groups of 2 and 4 around 8 PM.

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                      Oliveto Cafe
                      5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                      1. re: daveena

                        As well there should be. I've always felt that Oliveto is greatly overrated.

                        1. re: Rapini

                          I've had mostly excellent pastas there, and mostly disappointing mains (except for fish, which is usually very good). In the last few years I've stuck to their special dinners - with just apps, pastas, and seafood, I've had a lot of good meals there.

                    2. So this is my post report. I was very disappointed with this restaurant but some of my guests like it more than me. In short, this restaurant is not a place for birthday dinners. I planned a birthday dinner there for 20+ since all my top choices were booked up and I was happy that I got a reservation.

                      I felt bad that some of us came late to our reservation but we had some guests hanging out there. I came with a birthday cake and asked them to put it in their fridge. Few minutes after, one of the server came back to me to tell me that they charge a $2 per person cake cutting fee!! I was irritated that there was no mention of this on their website or anything prior but I went with it.

                      A friend that came earlier got her food and she liked the clams with linguine but when I tried to order that but they were out of clams! The waitress recommended the Vesuvio (Shrimp, zucchini, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, basil, chili flakes and linguine tossed in a garlic wine sauce (mild upon request) so I got that. My dish came out bland and NOT al dente. The shrimp tasted good but i didn't touch most of the pasta. Another friend ordered the Vesuvio after wanting the clams and linguine and he mentioned his is bland too. The guests enjoyed the shrimp ravioli and Creolla. My friend got the calamari but it was mediocre and I thought the calamari were smaller than I typically expect.

                      So we had mango napoleon (I made it!!) and then the bill. I was most surprised that they charged me tip for the cake cutting fee! I racked up $60 of cake cutting fee for 22 people... Is it typical for people to charge tip on a service?? Some of my guests were surprised by their bill too.

                      This place is probably good for sit down dinner with a small group of friends but it is not a place for birthday party. The restaurant is on the small side so our party definitely took over the physical and sound space of that place which I'm not comfortable with. I won't be going back and much rather try other places that I found from the original post. Lesson learn to book well in advance when the birthday is around holidays like Father's Day.

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                      Trattoria Laurellino
                      4171 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland, CA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bonniemo

                        Thanks for reporting back - sounds like that restaurant just might not be cut out for handling a party that size!

                        Then again, a party of 22 would have required pretty much renting out the entire restaurant at Dopo (my top pick), and I don't know if that's an option - and in any case, would require a few weeks' notice at any reasonably popular place, Father's Day or not.

                        Cake cutting fees are pretty standard, but if you told them ahead of time that you'd be bringing a cake and they didn't say anything, then that's poor form.

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                        Dopo
                        4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: bonniemo

                          I'd like to point out that nowhere in your posts did you mention that your party was for 22 -- if you had, the answers would have been different. Also, cake cutting fees are pretty standard, and $2 is on the low end of cake cutting fees I've seen quoted. I think for a last minute reservation for 22 on a Saturday night you were lucky to get anything.