Berkeley: Divino ... there should be more places like this
I'm going to re-write my review in the second reply. Thinking about it is is one of those places that deserves a little more love than my initial outline.
I'm running into a two hour limit so I'll say more below. I look forward to revisiting Divino. I thought the prices were reasonable, the food tasty and the ambiance ... heaven.
Adress and website
The space hasn't changed much since Fellini. They still have the potbellied pellet stove, though it wasn't on last night. Even the old owner was working as host.
I tried three wines, a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a Barbera, and a Chianti, all were good and very reasonably priced at $7.50-9 for generous pours (I'd say a solid six ounces). Antipasto plate was a nice selection of non-housemade salumi, ham, and cheese with a chunky olive and artichoke tapenade. Beet salad with pickled onions and excellent almonds had a surprising sweet-and-sour dressing. Sausage pizza was tasty and balanced, crust was good though a bit blonde for my taste, next time I'll ask them to scorch it a bit. I'd order all of those again.
I had a bite of the risotto, it was okay but I wouldn't order it (generally I don't like risotto in restaurants except on the rare occasions it's made to order).
Same pleasant atmosphere as Fellini only maybe more so, much better food, extremely reasonable prices, and a parking lot. Rare combination in Berkeley.
re: Robert Lauriston
I think the only thing I got at Fellini was the coffee to go and maybe just peeked into the restaurant.
I don't think the restaurant decor changed much other than a paint job and a few paintings.
The online menu is exactly what was served tonight. Maybe for Chowhound this isn't the right thing to focus on, but I can't think of a restaurant I've enjoyed more for the comfortable feel.
It is nice place to get together with a friend and chat. It has the feel of the perfect neighborhood restaurant.
It reminded me of a little restaurant in Rome where we just happened to drop in and there was this lovely welcoming feel to it. There was lack of pretention in both the ambiance and food.
There are a number of vegan dishes and there is the option of a gluten-free pizza crust.
Most tables ordered the pizza served on a pizza stand. It looked good but I can't tell you much more than that.
The server was good about steering us to the right things. I was looking at the lemonade and he mentioned that they made their own Italian sodas and he particularily liked the sweet ginger. I did as well, the ginger bite tamed by the sweetness.
We also had
- Suppli – Saffron risotto croquettes stuffed with smoked mozzarella
- Insalata Mista – arugula, frisee, red chard, baby oak, mizuna, goat cheese, candied pecans with balsamic vinaigrette
- Barbabietole – baby greens with roasted red and golden beets, pickled red onions, kalmata olives with a D’anjou & tarragon vinaigrette
- Lasagna – with a roasted beef & pork ragu and Strauss cream béchamel
- Pan Seared Jumbo Prawns -with risotto alla milanese and braised swiss chard
- Warm chocolate cake with vanilla bean gelato
- Trio of sorbet - apricot chardonnay, black currant and pear basil
I let my friend taste each dish and decide which he wanted. He held onto the ensalada mista, prawns and chocolate cake though he said thinking about it next time he'd go for the sorbet.
Our favorite was the apricot chardonnay. I'm not sure if they make their own ice cream. The other two desserts were creme brulee, one vanilla and one butterscotch
The thing is he was planning a trip back.
The lasagna was ... different ... delecate. A large square in a soup bowl, the noodles were almost as soft as the cheese the flavor subtle. If lasagna can be light, this was light.
The cappucino is one of the best I've had ... ever. If falls into the category of comfort food ... a large bowl of a cup topped with thick foam that had delicate coffee art on top. I want another cup right now.
But I don't think gastronomic olympics is what Divino is all about. The food is a part of the whole experience. You don't need to think about it, just enjoy it. So I didn't ask if they made their own ice cream and sorbet or what coffee was brewed. I simply enjoyed the evening and the meal. That was enough.
I asked one of the owners why the name "Divino". He said he and his partner had cooked in restaurants for many years and both wanted to someday own their own place. A number of things all fell into place when the former Fellini became available and it was ... to put it in my lingo ... like the food gods were smiling on them.
Often I'll eat at a restaurant when a parking place opens up as if it is a sign from the food gods to stop in. Divino has its own parking lot, practically a miracle in Berkeley
re: Robert Lauriston
According to this former Fellini fan 'the decor lacks the warm, hip vibe that Fellini had'
i don't know what that means, but what is there now is wonderful. i also disagree with the rave about the risotto balls, one of the few things that underwhelmed both of us. The were fine, about the size of a cotton puff and sitting in a pool of sauce.
My friend was hilarious to me because he is so not into food and then went into a description that would be worthy of coming from the keyboard of Jonathan Kaufmann. i wish i remember it but i was just so stunned ... and initially worried.
However, when the ensalada mista came out, he asked if he could keep the menu so he could order that next time. All went well after that.
Also, if there were any opening glitches, i didn't see them. Appropriate attention was paid to the table, helpful but not hovering. To me it was like a restaurant that had been running a while.
One table had children and it accomodated that as easily as the couples on dates and various types of group. it just was a place where everyone seemed to feel as comfortable as we did.
re: Robert Lauriston