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Borgo Italia in "Old Oakland"

Coming out your way for two weeks at Thanksgiving time and this new place is on my partner's radar. I realize it only opened two days ago, but has anyone been yet?

http://borgoitaliaoakland.com/

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  1. Oh, that's what Paul Ferrari of A. G. Ferrari opened in the old B space.

    1. Surprised that's on your partner's radar already when there hasn't been any buzz yet. I would think you'd check out Haven near Jack London Square first. But I guess since you won't be here until Thanksgiving, you can check back in a month to see what people think of Borgo Italia.

      1 Reply
      1. re: singleguychef

        He's originally from San Leandro, so he keeps up with what is going on in the Bay area. Plus, he saw the article about Borgo Italia on Eater recently. Hence, the radar. Of course we will check back in November to see what people are saying; I was just wondering in anyone had been yet. There were a couple of favorable reviews on Yelp. Thanks.

      2. This is the real deal, just like homemade. One of the owners had a restaurant in Parma and they're doing the same stuff. His mother is currently making the pasta and training the cooks.

        Just go.

        16 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Sounds like quite a lucky development on the restaurant scene, and a good way for people to be exposed to new variations on Italian cuisine.

          1. re: Tripeler

            Nothing new, though that kind of cooking is rare around here.

          2. re: Robert Lauriston

            Torta fritta aka gnocchi fritti were fresh, hot, puffy little breads served with prosciutto di Parma and good domestic coppa and salame. Would go really well with Lambrusco.

            Pizza margherita was tender Neapolitan style, very tasty tomato sauce and mozzarella.

            Spaghetti alla chitarra with tomato sauce was fantastic, noodles were thinner than I expected, almost like angelhair, their chitarra must have strings closer together than I'm used to.

            Housemade luganega sausage, zucchini poached in olive oil with garlic, and pepperonata were all great.

            I tasted a few creampuffs with different fillings and a ciambella with cream, not really my kind of thing but well made.

            I would have ordered the farinata (Ligurian version of socca) but the menu says three people minimum, the server said it's huge. Looking forward to trying that.

            Hours are 7am-11pm daily. The pastry chef apparently works all night. For breakfast they have a wide variety of fresh, housemade savory and sweet pastries for breakfast and morning snacks.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  I really like this restaurant...but given the location, having Sunday hours was probably wishful thinking.

                  In any event, I'm pulling for the place.

                  1. re: Rapini

                    I went for a 4:30 dinner yesterday. Not very crowded at that time but it started getting busier when we left. We had spaghetti alla chitarra, saltimbocca, and ravioli. All were excellent. I especially liked the speck and sage leaf in the saltimbocca. The ravioli filling with eggplant and prosciutto was a first for me and quite delicious. They brought some pastries to try, and then we ordered more plus some to take home. Very friendly staff.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I was wondering how they were going to sustain 16 hour days, seven days a week. I wish them well... actually, not just me. The second time I was there, there were a bunch of priests from Texas in the house. With Ennio Morricone's soundtrack to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" blaring in the background, one of them blessed the restaurant.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      Wow, you were certainly present for quite a religious experience. I am certainly jealous. Wonder what the priests from Texas were doing in Oakland?

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Beats me, but add in a rabbi and a minister and we'd be on the road to a joke!

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          makes me think we should start a new thread -- jokes about food.

                        2. re: Tripeler

                          "Wonder what the priests from Texas were doing in Oakland?"

                          Vacation? Conference? Visiting a parish? Missionary work?
                          http://www.ctlcathedral.org/

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I liked their "Spaghetti alla chitarra" but remember thinking the strands were too thin to exploit the irregularities introduced by a chitarra. Well, apparently no chitarra was used to make the "Spaghetti alla chitarra." They use a machine to cut the strands.

                      https://www.facebook.com/BorgoItaliaB...

                      https://www.facebook.com/BorgoItaliaB...

                      1. re: hyperbowler

                        I thought they were too narrow to have been cut with a chitarra. When we were talking with the chef's mother she said something about those things never working right anyway.

                        I'll have to see if I can get that extra-narrow cutter for our pasta machine.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          They use an Imperia from the photo. The Imperia model I own has an insert for tagliatelle on one side, and flips over for a cut about as thin as the one at BI. It's not as durable looking as the one in their pictures, but I believe it's their entry level model.

                          1. re: hyperbowler

                            The narrowest cutter we have for our Atlas 150 is about twice that wide. Looks like the capellini attachment's what I want.

                  3. sounds great. I can't wait to try their farinata.

                    anyone heard what kind of coffee they are serving? I'm always on the lookout for a nice place for an East Bay breakfast meeting.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: escargot3

                      I stopped by on my way to work this morning. The coffee is Giamaica brand from Italy. I had a sfogliatina de riso and a nice cappucino. The pastry was new to me; it looks like a small turnover and is filled with rice and cream. Really good, and I'd go back just for that, but they also have a wide variety of other fresh made pastries. I got a box for the office of little cream puffs. I don't know the Italian name, but they have less pastry cream than what I would expect from a French cream puff, and they had caramel drizzled over the top. The staff is very friendly, and have lovely accents. I'd definitely use the place for a breakfast meeting.

                      1. re: j mather

                        Sfogliatina = small sfogliatelle.

                        The usual name for those little cream puffs is bignè alla crema, but there are probably regional names as well.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Had a bunch of these little cream puffs today: chocolate, vanilla, honey, pistachio. Very well made, not too sweet.

                          I'll be back for lunch/dinner and more pastries.

                        2. re: j mather

                          Decades ago I used to walk to North Beach's Victoria Pastry to get yummy pastries. When we moved to the East Bay we were loyal patrons of Alice Medrich's still-unparalleled Cocolat Bakery. We adored Shuna Lydon's dessert creations at the still-mourned MoNo in Jack London Square, when it was still a warehouse district. So yes, we love whipped cream and pastry cream and flaky buttery pastry shells and oh yeah, that dirt-colored stuff called chocolate. You can take most American oversweetened desserts and dump 'em, as far as we're concerned.

                          Spouse and I stopped in to check them out at 8:30a on a Monday. Nobody else was there. Lovely rework of the old "B" space inside, very warm and rustic. If you don't know Borgo and District are there, however, you will NEVER notice them. With the tinted glass they look closed all the time, very unfriendly. Signs are tiny and easily missed, especially if you're driving past. Borgo has no 'Open' sign that we could see, which means if it is there others will probably miss it also.

                          They are NOT well-organized. Cheerful and friendly, but they must explain to every customer who comes in, what every single food item in the refrigerator case or on the tray is. There is no menu for the breakfast and pastry items, and no signs, not even handwritten ones! Sweet, but very inefficient if they get popular – which with their quality, they deserve to.

                          Not much in the way of breakfast savories. Everything is cold. Tiny croissants with thin-sliced ham, or two pieces of focaccia with very thin layer of ham, are the only savory options. No cheese or herbs, but we got one croissant apiece, and the pastry was excellent, the ham sweet and high quality.

                          But for sweets? A 4.5 star experience, absolutely! There is coffee and espresso, only one size. Cappuccinos were excellent, but they had not gotten any decaf beans yet so both of us drank it "leaded". How nice are they at Borgo? Well, they gave us two of the beignets for free to try – one chocolate, one vanilla. And they were wonderful.

                          Borgo is a stunning, outrageous, dessert-lover's paradise for sweet pastries. I personally don't believe they can continue to produce so many different cream-filled pastries on a daily basis; the entire workforce of Ask.com would have to descend upon them every day to prevent so many desserts from going limp and stale. It just isn't practical until they get more well-known.

                          At 8:30 a.m. they had out on the bar:
                          1. A long tray of pistachio cream tartlets
                          2. A long tray of chocolate cream tartlets
                          3. 3/4 of a large-size chocolate tart
                          4. Most of a large-size mixed nut tart

                          In the refrigerator case:
                          5. At least 18 large ciambelle – for my éclair-loving spouse, heaven! They use a pastry cream lightened with a judicious amount of heavy whipped cream. This was so much better than what I used to get at Victoria Pastry, I can't even begin to tell you.
                          6. Mixed fruit bowls with whipped cream topping
                          7. 3 kinds of beignets: chocolate, vanilla topped with drizzled spun sugar, and the other ??
                          8. Small fruit tartlets
                          9. A cake with little meringue puffs decorating the outside; two layers of what might be meringue? with a chocolate filling in the middle; pastry cream on top – again, didn't catch the name and exact description
                          10. Glass jars with lids for tiramisu (which we will try after dinner tonight)
                          11. Glass jars for panna cotta, which I picked. This was a full 1-1/2 cups of a rich milk cream, flecked throughout with vanilla bean seeds. Like the tiramisu which is the same size, enough to share. It can't be unmolded. If you like soft custards (which I do; it's how I make them at home), this is lovely. It is a little sweet, but goes well with black coffee although it would be nice if they had a fresh tart-sweet raspberry sauce as an optional accompaniment.

                          Summary:
                          We came back an hour later after finishing our errands, to get the tiramisu and some beignets to go! We're coming back for dinner this week (dinner menu looked more interesting than lunch). As a bakery, we haven't seen this kind of quality and whipped cream enthusiasm in the East Bay in way, way too long (happy cries of "mit schlag! Mit schlag!" are being heard in our house).

                          1. re: jaiko

                            They have separate lunch and dinner menus now? On the Web site it's a single "all day" menu which is what we got at lunch the other day.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              The menu on the website looks a bit like a skeleton -- I assumed things would be added -- permanently, seasonally or as specials.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                It changes daily. It's not unusual in Italy for that kind of restaurant to have a very short menu.

                      2. Great savory items, but I'm mainly excited that there's a place open till 11PM that has pastries to go. Currently, the neighborhood's late night dessert offerings are limited to places I'd feel weird getting take out from, frozen desserts, and what's offered at Asian cafes. Come to think of it, the only take-out place in the whole of Oakland & Berkeley with homemade pastries past 9PM on a weekend, to my knowledge, is PiQ, and there's aren't very good.

                        I stopped in last night. The daily menu didn't match what was online, and that sadly meant no farinata. The tagliatelle with veal ragu was rustic. excellent, and had a good sized portion. It was served in a frying pan to keep it warm. There was just enough ragu to coat, and showcase, the pasta.The tagliatelle had a good amount of resistance for a fresh pasta, and was a reminder of how good a simple pasta can be.

                        The salad of the day had a crunchy green, raisins, orange slices, pomegranate seeds, a few slices of carrot, and some swizzles of balsamic reduction on the plate corners. I'm not sure I've encountered a salad with pomegranate seeds that gelled, but the components were fine.

                        The torta fritta was a great vehicle for eating Italian meats. They're thin enough so that the bread's flavor doesn't overpower the meat, yet crunchy enough to add a contrasting texture. For a deep fried product, they're not at all oily, and the inside has a dryish texture similar to a homemade pocket pita. The prosciutto was sliced to the point of translucency.

                        The honey and hazelnut cream puffs were excellent, especially considering how many hours earlier they must have been produced.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          Sorry, almost forgot to report back on the tiramisu we brought home! It was good, but not quite as good as the one Venezia/Berkeley USED to make (alas, theirs has also gone downhill noticeably). It was probably the least sweet version we've ever had, which is good. Lots of espresso flavor, also good. But we like a lot of liqueur in our tiramisu, and we could hardly taste anything but coffee in Borgo's version.

                          Also, it was very whipped cream-y. Now, we do love whipped cream, but this needed more mascarpone to give the crema some body. I also can't figure out why they are spending on such expensive containers? The tiramisu comes in a Kerr's canning jar and heat-sealable top! This is a refrigerator torte...no need for the overkill.

                          Still in love with the beignet/cream puff thingies, though. I tried one of the pistachio mini-tarts, and the cream filling had remarkably full pistachio flavor, tender pastry crust. Very nice!

                          1. re: jaiko

                            I wonder if they might be having trouble sourcing mascarpone? We were talking with the mother in Italian and she said they were having trouble finding some things. AG Ferrari does not carry Galbani, which I think is best.

                            There are two basic schools of tiramisu, one made with espresso and the other with marsala.

                        2. Had dinner tonight. Pleasing interior, hardworking cheery staff. But, the food left a lot to be desired. 7:00 and out of the meat ragu. Server recommended the ravioli which was undercooked, virtually unsauced and bland. Chicken cacciatore was downright puzzling - dry as a bone. Unadorned nuggets of chicken. Strange because other tables seemed to be served different versions of the same dish, only in skillets. Sweets were gratis and good, but did not compensate for an underwhelming meal. Too many better Italian places in Oakland to recommend this one.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Carnivoracious

                            Our dining experience last nite at 7pm was, by contrast, rather enjoyable.

                            We started with the farinata -- a very different version than Nizza la Bella. Here it's a simple, unadorned alternative to white flour bread & spaghetti (which makes italian restos a challenge for those who prefer complex carbs). (not on the menu last nite but made by request)

                            The green salad was ok but not special. then again, I don't think the Italians in general have given much attn to green salads, as compared to sauteed greens.

                            A few of us really enjoyed th sausage on a bed of sauteed onions in red wine. sounds plain. or more like a German dish. but it was really delicious. One of our group got those chicken nuggets that were called chicken cacciatori, and was confused by the dish. That said, the chicken was moist and delicate. It might be "authentic" to the region of Tuscany, but it might be helped if it had a different name for an Oakland diner to better understand what it is.

                            The side dish of peppers was outstanding -- fabulous aroma and taste.

                            And the comp'd desserts were rapidly devoured. We all especially took delight in the fruit tarts -- not only was the fruit itself really really good, but the pastry shell was outstanding.

                            We all plan to return soon, and often.
                            ps- Note: They don't serve decaf coffee -- sometimes authenticity is annoying. But for the tea drinkers they offer a really good tea: Mighty Leaf.

                            1. re: escargot3

                              Is there anything suspended within the farinata batter (onions, rosemary, etc.)?

                              I had the spaghetti alla chitarra the other night. My preference is for thicker pastas in general, but it's well made and actually more sauce than I was expecting.

                              To cater toward customer preferences, they're now serving their salumi with or without the torta fritta. I would guess that the term "fried dough" was scaring people off. I hope the don't stop serving the torta fritta in the future ... it's really light and nothing like a bhatura or a doughnut.

                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                No, there isn't anything "suspended within the farinata batter". It's just a flat bread cut in triangles to munch on at the start of the meal. It had a slightly charred edge that I especially enjoyed. it was a real treat for me - complex carb, lottsa protein, and perhaps an acquired taste.

                            2. re: Carnivoracious

                              Sounds like the kitchen staff's not fully trained and when they're slammed quality control falls apart. This is only their second weekend.

                              There are a zillion variations on pollo alla cacciatora, but the description on their web site is "white wine-braised chicken, seasonal vegetables, pine nuts, herbs," so if that didn't change and there was nothing in the pan but chicken, somebody messed up somewhere.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                thanks for the clarification, Robert. That actually describes the chicken dish that was served. It really was tasty -- a simple presentataion, but the chicken was tender and flavorful. I really enjoyed it. but it just was not what was expected.

                            3. Ate at Borgo last friday with my dad and step mother who is 5 years removed from her hometown in Bergamo Italy.

                              Have to say the overall experience was severely lacking. Yes the fried bread and prosciutto is fantastic, and YES the deserts are STUNNING. However all of our main dishes were pretty weak
                              The Ragu pasta was bland and the meat had a strange dryness to it. The veal sausage was ok. The sausage and peppers was forgettable and I forget what it was but the chicken dish we got was boring.

                              What really bothers me about this place is the pizza. it was floppy. You are trying to do authentic northern italian and your pizza isn't crispy? We had to tell them to refire our pizza's twice. Pretty bad sign.

                              Service was pretty horrid. Made a reservation for 730.. showed up.. didn't get seated till 815. Sat at the bar and was told to order drinks on the house. Worst Manhattan ever. Then when we got the bill.. The drinks were there. Pretty lame.

                              The real bummer is that my step mother was so excited to get something authentic... and she did agree it was reasonably authentic, however she also agreed it was pretty awful. I guess I can chalk it up to growing pains and/or a bad day. But its too expensive for me to just give them another shot.
                              Wont be returning for dinner or drinks but will DEFINITELY come back for desserts. and the fried bread app.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: JohnnyontheSpot

                                Stopped by for lunch today after passing by so many times (and after having stopped by for a lovely espresso and pastry). With a friend we split the ragu and risotto con funghi, and a pepperonata side. Finished off with more espresso and pastries.

                                I love the true Italian feel and look of the place, and would gladly go every morning for a daily dose of coffee and rich dolci. Service was friendly. BUT, food was only ok, and somewhat pricey (almost $30 each(!) with tax and tip for what I described above, no wine, only water to drink).

                                The risotto was nice, good chewy texture and the taste of the mushroom came out well (a bit salty, but Italians happily have never been afraid of salt). The pepperonata was a nice side as well --fresh and well balanced with a bit of celery, and just the right amount of garlic. So these were both good, but not amazing (certainly nothing I could not do myself), and portions were rather small. The ragu was the real disappointment. The stereotypical destruction of pasta in this country is overcooked mush swimming in sauce. However, I found this went too far in the other direction: al dente is one thing, but almost crunchy is not right. And the sauce was so scant as to almost not be there; and what was there was bland with rather watery liquid and dry meat. And no parmiggiana to sprinkle on it? Heck, you'd think with the proprietors from Parma that is a detail they would not miss. Also, just my own 2 cents, I am less impressed with home-made pasta than I am with the final product delivered to the table --having the former is not a substitute for weak execution of the latter. After all, it's hardly like every trattoria, or even most, or even the best ones in Italy all serve home made pasta.

                                So, I wish them well and want to love it: I'll surely be back repeatedly for an afternoon espresso (or in the mornings). And I will find myself back for lunch on occassion; but more often than not, will simply gaze in the window as I pass it by on my way to pick up a $7 sandwich at Ratto.

                                1. re: MagicMarkR

                                  The lack of cheese for the pasta was a service issue, they normally offer it.

                                  1. re: MagicMarkR

                                    Crunchy fresh pasta? That's odd--- I wonder how long they're letting it dry out.

                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                      From my experience rolling pasta, it does not take long for it to dry out; and even if semi-dried out, if it sticks together in cooking it's worse. I called it "home-made" in my post, which I generally equate to "fresh", as opposed to factory-made, put in a box and shipped. Or even pasta made at home that has dried but is only a couple of hours old is more "fresh" to me than the non-dried out pasta sitting on the shelves in the cooler at Berkeley Bowl. So I was not knocking Borgo for using dried (albeit home-made) pasta; I was knocking them for how it was cooked.

                                2. I finally got to try Borgo earlier this week. I have to agree with a few posters here, especially that the food is good but nothing special. I like the decor, and the staff seems friendly enough (although as it got busier it was harder to find our waitress) but the pasta was too al dente and the pizza crust was not really tasty for me. In fact, it was borderline like cardboard because it seemed dry. We had the margherita and it the tomato sauce didn't have a special flavor, just straightforward. And not enough basil flavor, in fact, basil leaves weren't even cooked in with the sauce and instead was just a topping as a garnish.

                                  But I do agree with others that the pastries and baked items seem really good. I really enjoyed the variety of ciambella and the appetizer of torta fritta was a big hit at our table. I feel like if they emphasized their cafe side with their pastries, they might do well. I just wasn't that impressed by the savory side.

                                  http://focussnapeat.com/2012/10/31/ne...

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: singleguychef

                                    The plain tomato sauce is absolutely traditional for a Neapolitan pizza. Personally I prefer other styles but people who like Una Pizza Napoletana will probably like it.

                                    1. re: singleguychef

                                      "We had the margherita and it the tomato sauce didn't have a special flavor, just straightforward. And not enough basil flavor, in fact, basil leaves weren't even cooked in with the sauce and instead was just a topping as a garnish."

                                      All margherita pizzas I've had here and in Italy always have a few basil leaves strewn on top and not cooked into the "straightforward" sauce or just slices of tomato, no sauce at all. It's all about the individual ingredients: cheese, tomato, basil.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        The pizza at Borgo didn't have basil leaves strewn around the pie, it was just one snippet that sat in the center.

                                        Tony's Neapolitan Pizzeria in North Beach does it where it's cooked in, and I love that version. But I can see how fresh leaves would also be nice. Just wished that was the case at Borgo.

                                        1. re: singleguychef

                                          In Italy, a few basil leaves in the center of the pie is probably the most common style for a Margherita.

                                          Everything I've had at Borgo Italia has been extremely traditional, just like you would get in Italy. Probably too much so for the American market.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            "In Italy, a few basil leaves in the center of the pie is probably the most common style for a Margherita."

                                            That's exactly what I meant; thanks RL. I mistakenly used the word "strewn" in my post above,

                                            "Everything I've had at Borgo Italia has been extremely traditional, just like you would get in Italy. Probably too much so for the American market."

                                            It's amazing how people automatically disparage a place that is trying to present real Italian food when comparing it to what they have had in the "little Italys" of their area. I am looking forward to trying Borgo Italia when we come out your way in 2 weeks.

                                    2. Went again last night. Three of us walked in around 8:30 without a reservation, the place started clearing out, got seated in maybe 15 minutes.

                                      Finally got to try the farinata ($9). Really earthy and delicious. Also quite rich, way too much for three, would have been enough for eight or ten to share as an appetizer. We took some home. The salumi and bread puffs were great as usual, the Lambrusco-like sparkling Bonarda is a great pairing.

                                      That spaghetti alla chitarra with tomato sauce is, well, I wish I'd had a whole bowl for myself. I can't figure out how they get that flavor. Gnocchi with pesto and tagliatelle al ragù were also delicious. We would have tried the risotto but they were out.

                                      Disappointing that the only two secondi were pounded chicken breast, they were good but I wasn't really in the mood for chicken. (The server said they had to 86 the veal because the kitchen sliced it too thin.) Zucchini and pepperonata great as usual.

                                      My friends loved the assorted cream puffs and ciambella, really not my thing at all. The server comped us a jelly jar of what he called panna cotta but it was very egg yolky, more like a Lombardian caulatt, not what I expected but seriously delicious.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        We went for dinner but just weren't in love with it. More than simple cooking, this feels austere. Three flatbreads and they all sounded similar. Three pizzas and they all sounded similar, too.

                                        This is in line with what Ferrari wants, apparently. He was quoted as saying this is "cucina casalinga, simple osteria cooking - somewhere where you can hang out and eat good food that’s not too pretentious."

                                        The trouble is, the prices of Borgo run right up there with frankly more interesting competitors. The breaded chicken was dry and overcooked. The veal was so skimpy, it was embarrassing, although the sauce was good. The sausage and onions in wine were great, but so salty I couldn't finish it.

                                        The linguine in meat sauce was great. The corn fusilli in the same, not so much - not enough sauce, fusilli alarmingly close to the 'crunchy' stage someone mentioned above. We love the whipped cream desserts, but they're all variations on the same theme.

                                        I really would like to see Borgo succeed. But the food is...kind of boring. We're not looking for two pounds of cheese on every pizza and tomato sauce up the yin-yang, but Borgo just didn't grab us with anything interesting or satisfying.

                                        1. re: jaiko

                                          The addition of gluten-free pasta seems like the first step down the slippery slope of pandering to local tastes.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Well, you can "slide down the slippery slope"...OR you could decide that maybe the customer is always going to be right, whether the owner/chef approve or not.

                                            Considering the difficult location and still-recovering economy, if I had a couple of million $$$ to invest, I wouldn't do it trying to force people to eat food they don't find interesting. Riva Cucina did some amazing food when it first opened, but people wouldn't pay for it, the economy dropped off a cliff, and Massimiliano Boldrini had to rethink and adjust. He can do some incredible dishes, but it would have to be at a higher price point than currently exists, so he's constrained.

                                            Borgo feels like the same culture clash. Like we used to say in consulting, "We don't want to be on the cutting edge. That's a good way to die, out there in front."

                                            1. re: jaiko

                                              There's nothing cutting-edge about what they're doing at Borgo Italia.

                                              I think there's a niche market for traditional Italian food. Oliveto did it for a long time before Bertolli left and they went in a more Cal-Italian direction. Farina charges a premium for it in SF. People who don't want that have literally a hundred other Italian restaurants to choose from in the East Bay.

                                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                Sorry, I guess I wasn't clear. When I said "cutting edge" I meant getting in front of what your customers want. I hope you are correct that there IS a market niche for traditional Italian cooking in our city...but based on the comments in this thread, there are more 'thumbs down' than 'thumbs up' for what Borgo is producing.

                                                It's a simple fact that negative experiences are much more widely disseminated to one's social contacts that positive ones. Borgo so far is barely treading water and the "buzz" is not strongly enthusiastic.

                                                And yes, there are a lot of other Italian restaurants...with more to come, such as A16. I would hate to see Borgo get ignored as a prospective dinner spot, but as it is right now we don't consider it a good value for the money. We like them enough that we will give them a second chance, and I hope the next experience will be more positive. But if it isn't, then they're off our list except for dessert.

                                                We dine out far more than average, from expensive French to cheap Ethiopian. There is too much competition in the Bay Area to spend "A list" money on "B list" food. Authenticity is fine and good, until it's an albatross around your neck. Maybe there's a reason why Oliveto no longer clings to the idea of 'traditional Italian'.

                                                1. re: jaiko

                                                  If Borgo Italia finds a following among Italians and hardcore Italophiles, it won't matter what people who don't like their style of cooking think. There are lots of reports on this board from people who think Farina is overpriced and A16's food is bland.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    I'll just point out that "traditional" doesn't necessarily mean "good." I've been reading the reports about Borgo with interest, and it appears that they are, at the very least, inconsistent. If they don't improve their consistency in turning out their dishes, it won't matter how hardcore their dishes are.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I've been three times and found the food consistently good.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        You're such a "hardcore Italophile" I don't really trust that you wouldn't excuse lapses in quality if you were convinced of their traditionalism. After all, it's quite possible to get mediocre food in Italy.

                                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          The food's been consistently good. It sure ought to be, given how short the menu is. Lots of other things have been inconsistent: portion sizes, dishes not matching what was described on the menu, the unannounced Sunday closure ... but they haven't been open three weeks and they're learning how to work in a foreign country.

                                                          Many of the things I like about Borgo Italia's food are exactly the same things that other people are complaining about. I think that's what gives the impression of inconsistency.

                                                          When I lived in Italy, outside of the most touristy neighborhoods I never encountered mediocre food.

                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                            Having never been to Europe, I am perfectly willing to concede that Robert is the expert here on Italian osterias. But Borgo IS NOT located in Italy. It is in a city having a tough time economically, in a neighborhood that is not as popular as others such as the Temescal and Uptown.

                                                            The question is, are there enough people like RL to support Borgo "as is"? Because if there isn't, then Borgo is in trouble no matter how authentic or well-meaning or charming it may be.

                                                            I will not spend my $$$ at Borgo if I don't receive what I feel is good value. And unfortunately, there seem to be more people here who feel the way I do about their dining experience at this restaurant. The flatbread they gave gratis was fresh out of the oven, but we're not carb lovers and after a few bites it was "okay, that was nice but boring." The salt level was just too high - my spouse had a haemorrhagic stroke at age 50 and he should not be eating that much salt in a meal.

                                                            We like Borgo, but we wanted to love it because the people are charming. But we just don't. It costs too much for such a flawed experience. I feel the same way about Commis. That's just my opinion. But my dollars are going back in a couple of weeks not to Commis but to Aziza for a family get-together, because our recent meal at Aziza was, as I said on the other thread, everything I expected Commis to be but it was not.

                                                            Borgo for us is the same as Commis, except I'm willing to give Borgo another chance. After that....we'll see. If "authentic" means overcooked chicken breast, I'm not interested no matter what anybody else thinks.

                                                            1. re: jaiko

                                                              Definitely avoid Borgo Italia if you're not ready to eat carbs.

                                                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                              When I go to Italy I stay in an apartment outside the tourist areas and I've encountered mediocre food.

                                                              At least five posters in this thread said they were underwhelmed by the food, and at least three described major flaws in their dishes. That's not consistent, IMHO.

                                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                With the possible exception of the "almost crunchy pasta" with watery ragù and dry meat, the differences of opinion here could all be matters of taste.

                                                                Evidence of inconsistency in the kitchen would be the same person reporting that the same dish was prepared differently on two visits.

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Gee Robert, even you said "Sounds like the kitchen staff's not fully trained and when they're slammed quality control falls apart. This is only their second weekend."

                                                        2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                          I totally agree Ruth! Just because a chef is from Italy doesn't mean the food is great.

                                          2. I'm surprised by the heated debate on this thread. Like Robert, I've been to Borgo 3 times, with groups of at least 4 people and all very much enjoyed a fabulous dinner.

                                            - Actually Borgo is a GREAT place for lo-carb eaters like myself. And perhaps that's why I love it. I don't eat pizza 'n pasta. So I really enjoy the appetizers and main dishes. I love the farinata, and for me it's wonderful to have it instead of the best of white bread.

                                            - Jaiko: To compare Borgo with Commis is ... apples and oranges. Please compare a place like Plum with Commis, not a resto with much more modest aspirations. I have never found the farinata to be salty. If anything one can reject it for being too simple. Perhaps there was a error in the kitchen when you had it, Jaiko. I am certain if you had mentioned this to the staff they would have replaced it with another.

                                            17 Replies
                                            1. re: escargot3

                                              I don't think Jaikio was comparing Borgo to Commis in terms of food, he was comparing them in terms of what he saw as the price-value quotient of the restaurant, i.e. too expensive for the experience.

                                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                that comparison is a little surprising since most people I've talked to who have gone to Commis think it is one of the better deals for a tasting menu.

                                                1. re: nicedragonboy

                                                  I agree. Having left Manresa felling cheated at twice the price, Commis was a wonderful experience, and far better value. Not to say Commis is perfect--e.g., it could use a bump in the dessert department--but it's good value in the culinary territory it inhabits.

                                                  As for Borgo Italia, I've only lunched there once ('m on my way for another, since there's house-made gnocchi and pesto on the menu today), but it was good food, with a charming staff, as noted in this thread. My concern about its future success is just that the place gives me a certain seat-of-the-pants feeling about how it's run. They may not be the best business people; and if I was Sr. Ferrari, I'd pay attention to the administration of the restaurant, and let the kitchen do what it does well.

                                                  My due centesimi...

                                                  1. re: Rapini

                                                    Okay, back from lunch at BI, and I have to admit it was a little spendy for lunch.

                                                    OTOH, I had a plate of gnocchi with pesto that was proof there is a god. So there's that.

                                                  2. re: nicedragonboy

                                                    Might depend on whether you're old enough to remember Nouvelle Cuisine or not. I agree with Pete Wells/NYTimes and his hysterically funny column last month on tasting menu fatigue.

                                                    We might have gone on an off-night. But honestly, only 2 of nine dishes (7 course, 2 amuse bouches) were worthwhile. 2 were combinations most of us found borderline unpleasant. 5 were average. All four of us dine out a lot and have sufficient budgets that it's a regular part of our lives. None of us are interested in returning to Commis.

                                                    Returning to Borgo, I would like to see them get it together so that people are enthusiastic about returning. I don't care if it's 'authentic' or not. We didn't get food that was worth the cost.

                                                    1. re: jaiko

                                                      "I don't care if it's 'authentic' or not. We didn't get food that was worth the cost."

                                                      That is a fair statement. The back and forth about "authentic" or not is interesting and I am looking forward to see for myself, but I do expect to get a certain level of quality when I see certain prices.

                                                2. re: escargot3

                                                  I wouldn't call the farinata low-carb. Chickpea flour has more protein, fiber, and fat than wheat flour but it's still 47% starches and sugars vs. 60% for whole-wheat flour. As far as I remember the other appetizers were all made from wheat flour. The only low-carb appetizer on the Web site is pork loin tonnato, which I haven't seen on the real menu yet.

                                                  1. re: escargot3

                                                    The issue I'm having with this debate is an implication that anyone who is critical of Borgo's food is ignorant of "traditional" Italian food, and almost tautologically, fails to understand that Borgo's food is therefore all and always good. Punto!

                                                    Clearly many people in this discussion, including those who have been disappointed with some of the things they have had at Borgo, have in fact spent time in Italy (for me, almost 3 years-worth, admitedly a long time ago), or *done time* with Italian parents. Indeed if that is the proper test, then a fair question is: if Borgo were lifted to Italy, would you choose it over, or even equally, other trattorie (assuming it is indeed true that one will not get a mediocre meal in the non-touristy neighborhoods in Italy) ? I probably would not (although I give them a chance to work out kinks as a new restaurant). But of course we are not in Italy, so that is not really an option and therefore maybe not a proper test.

                                                    I disagree with a previous post that "people automatically disparage a place that is trying to present real Italian food when comparing it to what they have had in the 'little Italys' of their area." On the contrary, I think people really are giving it a chance and wanting it to succeed, so there is nothing "automatic" about the evaluations. And since we are not in Italy, maybe the proper test is a comparison with the local "little Italys," since for Borgo's future, that is the only test that really matters.

                                                    Just my 2 cents. In any event, I still wish Borgo well, and still love the pastry case, and hope the next time I go for lunch, my pasta is not 'crunchy.'

                                                    1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                      The food at Borgo Italia is similar to everyday, no-special-occasion trattorias I ate at when I was living in Italy. That's what I love about it. If there had been a place like that around the corner from my apartment in Rome, I'd have eaten there all the time (though it would likely have gone out of business quickly since Romans are narrow-minded and would find the food weird and foreign).

                                                      I think many of the people who have characterized the food as bland, uninteresting, or overly salty or the portions as too small dislike it for precisely the same reasons I love it. That doesn't mean that they're ignorant, it's just a matter of personal taste.

                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                        Yup, I agree with you, and the things you mentioned are also what I like about it, and which remind me of Italy (most of my time was in Bologna). But I do think there is room in that (i.e. without denying the authentic-ness aspect), to evaluate and critique the exectution of the dishes --and the price given the size. And yes I agree with ttoommyy below.

                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                          "think many of the people who have characterized the food as bland, uninteresting, or overly salty or the portions as too small dislike it for precisely the same reasons I love it. That doesn't mean that they're ignorant, it's just a matter of personal taste."

                                                          I've often thought the same thing about some restaurants I love here in the NYC area, RL. "Uninteresting" and "bland" to some can mean "simple" and "fresh" to me. It is really a matter of personal taste and what one expects from a restaurant. It's been quite some time since I had an appetite for fussy preparations and cutting edge ingredients. When I go out to eat these days, I really just want simple, fresh, well executed food.

                                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                                            This thread has had a few mentions of price and value at BI. I'm finding price criticisms unrealistic for the Bay Area. Traditional Italian isn't cheap around here. If someone is finding this type of cuisine at a cheaper price than BI, please let me know where as I tend to cook Italian more than eat it out specifically because of the price.

                                                            Barbacco and Bellanico are probably the best deals in the town, but they're notably in the minority. The following thread is what I've been using to try the Bay Area's offerings, and except for maybe L'Osteria del Forno, which still isn't all that cheap, I can't think of a single place I've left with paying under $30/person before drinks.

                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/787758

                                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                                              I find the price discussion puzzling as well- 2 of us had 4 courses and a bottle of Barbera for $100. I picked the bottle of wine and asked the server for advice pairing the food with it. We were going to order both pasta courses she mentioned but she dissuaded us, saying it would be too much food with dessert- she was right.

                                                              1. re: Pius Avocado III

                                                                Four courses and a bottle of wine for $100 for two is considerably less than I've spent. Did you share all four courses?

                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Yes, and I should've pointed out that dessert was comp'ed.

                                                        2. re: MagicMarkR

                                                          "And since we are not in Italy, maybe the proper test is a comparison with the local "little Italys," since for Borgo's future, that is the only test that really matters."

                                                          That's fine, as long as they are not comparing it to a place that serves veal parmigiana or spaghetti and meatballs or pizza by the slice, because from what I have read on their menu and here on CH, that is not the kind of food Borgo Italia is trying to present.

                                                          1. re: MagicMarkR

                                                            MagicMark, I agree completely. I have enjoyed their baked goods but went for lunch and was rather underwhelmed. As my work takes me to that area a couple times a week, I really wanted to like the food more. We had some kind of fennel and rocket starter and tagliatelle with veal ragu. Both were fine, but I've certainly had better meals--for less money--in simple trattorie in Italy.

                                                            I'm not in a hurry to return to Borgo Italia, but I'll probably give it another try.

                                                        3. As the OP, it's been very interesting to see how this thread has developed over the weeks since I first posted it. As an "Italophile" myself, I am very interested in dining at Borgo Italia. God willing (hurricane Sandy has taken a week from my life here in NJ), we'll be leaving for CA next Wednesday and probably make it to Oakland the following week. I'm pretty easy to please and never expect a restaurant to be perfect, so I think I'm going to enjoy myself at BI. For some reason, the positive responses here seem more genuine than the negative ones. Buy hey, we'll see!

                                                          1. Their website has changed and they no longer list the daily menu. That's a good change, since in the four times I've gone, it's never matched what I ate there that night. They recommend calling to hear the daily specials. They do seem to have daily updates on their Facebook page:

                                                            https://www.facebook.com/BorgoItaliaB...
                                                            http://borgoitaliaoakland.com/menu.html

                                                            Their website's online menu seems to now list their repertoire of dishes, only a sample of which might appear on any night. If anyone tries the Pumpkin & amaretti-filled tortelli, sage, butter or the Chestnut flour tagliatelle, Speck, pine nuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, please report.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: hyperbowler

                                                              I had the chestnut flour tagliatelle dish a couple weeks ago - it was just ok. The pasta texture was slightly gummy (don't know if that's to be expected with chestnut flour pasta or not), with several strands basically glued to the frying pan surface the dish was presented in. The dish was on the whole somewhat too salty for me (and I like salt), which I think was a product of the speck scattered in the dish. Felt like it needed something to brighten up the flavors of the dish, which seemed somewhat monochromatic to me.

                                                              1. re: Spatlese

                                                                Chestnut flour lacks gluten, so pasta made with it tends to lack the elasticity of one made with flour. I've only had chestnut pasta once before, an eggless Ligurian recipe I made from Guliano Bugial's pasta cookbook, an even though it was mostly all purpose flour, it also seemed to lack structure and was a bit gummy.

                                                            2. this review of Farina Pizza by Josh Sens reminded me of this thread
                                                              http://www.modernluxury.com/san-franc...

                                                              1. >>Not that the menu has no West Coast whimsy: One of my favorite entrées, a honking rib eye garnished with arugula and pecorino cheese and laid out on a slab of housemade focaccia, was dreamed up right here in Farina’s kitchen...>>

                                                                Thanks, that was an interesting read! And if Borgo had the imagination to create a great rib-eye with pecorino we would have ordered it at any price. My DH still mourns the loss of the lovely rib-eye sandwich on Acme from the old Cuckoo's Nest in JLSquare (where ChopBar is now).

                                                                No, good Italian - heck, good anything - is never cheap. Riva Cucina's cooking was much better in the early days when it opened, but the price point apparently wasn't supportable. The prosciutto was magnificent the first two times we were there. A year later, it was what it is now - no better than anyone else's, and two levels below what it had been.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: jaiko

                                                                  good gawd.
                                                                  a sliced steak with arugula is a West Coast whimsy? has no one here never been to Italy? Maybe using focaccia instead of a wooden board is, but...???? Farina's kitchen? are they in Firenze?

                                                                  This pasta alla chitarra. If it is not made on a "chitarra" it is NOT pasta of any sort made on a chitarra. What I have seen of Borgo Italia is NOT in any way pasta of any kind alla chitarra. Give me a break. It may be wonderful, it may be delicious. but it ain't alla chitarra if it ain't cut with taut strings strung on a few bits of wood. simple as that.

                                                                  I've been to Borga once. Not for a meal, for a coffee and a dolce. Will go back. But....the caffè I had was mediocre at best. If they can't get that right, well.... In any case, look forward to some pleasant surprises....

                                                                  1. re: sambamaster

                                                                    perhaps it should be called "pasta alla pasta alla chitarra."

                                                                  2. re: jaiko

                                                                    The San Daniele prosciutto on Borgo Italia's board was the best Italian ham I've had in a long time.

                                                                    The "spaghetti alla chitarra" = capellini, I'm not sure why they don't call it that. Maybe they were planning to make alla chitarra and decided that was impractical.

                                                                  3. I've made Mark Bittman's farinata recipe dozens of times, so I've been itching to have a good version from a professional oven for years. I reached farinata success tonight.

                                                                    Bittman's recipe has a uniform thickness and comes out kind of like a chickpea flour frittata. Borgo Italia's is kind of like an Italian dosa, but with the kind of irregularities you get from pizza. There are crispy wafer thin sections, and sections more similar to a thin french omelette in texture. The unevenness keeps things interesting--- this thing is huge. It's a simple and good snack, and I like it better just by itself than as a medium for toppings (e.g., the socca at Encuentro). It's an interesting contrast to Bittman's recipe, which is so thick that it needs additional flavors incorporated into the batter to make it interesting, but which at the same time mask the chickpea flavor. Not sure I prefer BI's or Bittman's farinata... they both have their place.

                                                                    I've mainly had good experiences there, and the reviews above steered me clear of the main dishes. I instead had two other dishes, a carrot soup and an eggplant side. These aren't destination worthy dishes, but were well prepared, and exactly the type of healthful and simple food I was wanting and which you tend not to find at 10PM.

                                                                    Also, they serve the bread with olive oil and Densa Di Balsamico, a balsamic reduction. Definitely an improvement on the American custom... the thick and sweet balsamic tastes a lot better on bread that a wet acidic vinegar.

                                                                    1. Had a great meal last night. Place was packed, owner Fabio Dalle Vacche who was manning the host station comped us a round of drinks.

                                                                      Torta fritta ($12) with sparkling Bonarda ($38), great as always. I'd get a double order for more than two people.

                                                                      Big serving of spaghettia alla chitarra ($13) all to myself. Talked with the owners and the trick to the special flavor is super-ripe fresh plum tomatoes from Naples they get through A. G. Ferrari, so much for my fantasy of duplicating that at home. Paul Ferrari is a dead ringer for Bruno Ganz circa 1992.

                                                                      Ossobuco and polenta ($16) with a side of mushrooms ($8) and an exceptional 2007 Selvapiana Chinati riserva ($59). They had a nice selection of secondi for once, other options were a veal stew and a chicken breast alla Valdostana that sounded more interesting than either of the ones we tried last time.

                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                        Alas, we never got to BI on our trip 2 weeks ago. To make a long story short, we were talked out of it by my partner's parents who had gone and not liked it. I can kick myself for giving in to them.

                                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                                          Another so-so experience with Borgo, this time with take-out desserts:

                                                                          We went four days ago to pick up dessert at Borgo, only to get home to discover the waiter had given us almost nothing of what I actually asked for. We ended up with two chocolate ciambelles instead of the three vanilla ciambelles my spouse wanted, and three each of two different beignets instead of all six being the honey beignets I pointed to.

                                                                          They still have no signs on their dessert case to indicate what the different desserts are, and it’s beginning to get really irritating. We love the pastries and their waitstaff is sweet, but the Amateur Hour shtick is starting to lose its charm.

                                                                      2. I just posted about this place on the recent SFgate article--I guess maybe my pizza was "tender Neapolitan style" but I would call it undercooked and the sauce was very salty. I didn't like it at all and I am no pizza snob. I'm new to Chowhound and don't want to just repeat what I wrote earlier on the 'gate as that might give the impression I'm just going all over to bash the place, but I was pretty disappointed overall. I will be giving it another try (at least for some pastries), but with more measured expectations. I went in expecting to love this place.

                                                                        Disclaimer: I have never been to Italy.

                                                                        8 Replies
                                                                        1. re: lakemerritter

                                                                          Welcome to Chowhound!

                                                                          Around what time did you go and was it busy? I've had better success than a lot of others, and I think it's because I go late when there's not a lot going on in the kitchen. On the other hand, like any place, they run out of things by then.

                                                                          Yeah, I've avoided and probably will never have the pizza because of reports that it's "tender Neapolitan style." Not my thing. Have you been to Boot & Shoe Service or Pizzaiolo, and if so, how did the crust compare (I find theirs too soft for my tastes, kind of like naan)?

                                                                          1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                            My wife and I stopped by at about 6:30-7ish and actually just wanted a look at a menu, but when a table opened up we decided to stay and have a snack. That's why we got the pizza and not a full meal. It was indeed busy and our check was probably the smallest in the place as we both did not even order drinks.

                                                                            I love both Boot and Shoe (it's in my neighborhood so I often stop in for lunch or very early dinner when it's less crowded) and Pizzaiolo pizza. That crust is great to me and I think their sauce is delicious, so I guess I am biased a bit. But I'm also from NY and I like that style of pie a lot as well. The worst pizza I have ever had is Extreme Pizza if you're looking for a benchmark on the other end.

                                                                            I will return to try some spaghetti alla chitarra. Thank you for your nice welcome--I read the site often and had always meant to sign up but never did until now!

                                                                          2. re: lakemerritter

                                                                            With as many good and varied pizza places as we have now, there's no reason to order pizza at Borgo if you don't like it. I ordered a pizza on my first visit, and while I liked it well enough, it's not my favorite style, and I haven't had it since.

                                                                            OTOH, I think the pastas are terrific. Not long ago, I had house-made gnocchi with pesto that was as good as I've had anywhere. Also the salads are fine, and the salumi plate with fried bread is very good.

                                                                            I say, give the place another try, avoid the pizza.

                                                                            1. re: lakemerritter

                                                                              If you prefer your pizza crisp, don't order it at BI.

                                                                              To me, the pasta's the star, particularly the spaghetti alla chitarra (capellini) with tomato sauce. I can't believe the Chron reviewer went three times and tried only the chestnut tagliatelle.

                                                                              1. re: lakemerritter

                                                                                We've stopped in twice. First a few months back, on a whim, for some pastry and an espresso. The pastry was ok, but the espresso NOT acceptable. (They may have changed bean suppliers since then, so the coffee might be better...but if they, positioning themselves as so "Italian", can't get espresso even close, well. Now, I've been roasting my own beans for 13 years and pulling great shots from a great machine for nearly 20, so I do know a bit about coffee...just takes care and attention.) But while we were there, we observed the kitchen and it did not give me confidence...lots of "on the job training" going on at the stovetop, and it was not a pretty sight.

                                                                                Then a couple days ago, on the way to the airport for a drop-off, we decided to have a quick lunch, and this was on the way, and we'd wanted to give it another try. (Notice I avoided the obvious pun: give it another shot.) We ordered a couple pizze, and an insalata to split three ways. Cutting to the chase: we will not return. The pizze were insipid: sauce too sweet, mozzarella was tasteless, and with each successive bite, as they cooled down, they became more and more disagreeable. Didn't like the crust, it was lacking character and chew. I've got some experience making this stuff, and eating pizza "a legna" in many different locales. This must rank at, or very near, the bottom of the list.

                                                                                At home I have a chitarra for making pasta (and am certified as a 'sfoglino' from Bologna's best pasta school), some pizza stones, and the best espresso in the East Bay, so I'll not take up anyone else's space at Borgo in the future! YMMV!!!!

                                                                                1. re: sambamaster

                                                                                  So they have pastries again? I gather you didn't love them as much as some earlier in the thread? I stopped by a couple of weeks ago in the afternoon hoping to sample some and a server told me that the pastry person had been ill for some time and he didn't know when they would have them again.

                                                                                  1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                                                    The pastry case is empty these days it seems...except for panna cotta in jars...my pastry comment referred to our first visit a few months ago, as I think I stated.

                                                                                    By the way, I really wanted to like this place, but it just doesn't measure up in my tattered old book. Too bad.

                                                                                    1. re: sambamaster

                                                                                      The pasta's the thing that keeps me going back. It's just like homemade, except their tomato sauce is better than I can make.

                                                                                      As I noted above, I think the pizza is technically well made, but only people who like that tender Neapolitan crust (I don't) will want to order it twice.

                                                                              2. I went for lunch on Christmas Eve day--somewhat on a whim (had been heading to Cosecha, which turned out to only be open for pre-orders). First time there. Meant to post, but slipped my mind--glad to see this thread back, to jog my memory

                                                                                Ordered a very nice, well priced glass of wine--and the pasta w/ sage butter. The sauce was tasty. Though scant amt. for the $$, and noodles slightly under-cooked.

                                                                                But the main concern was the service. It was disorganized in a who's-on-first way. A guy showed me to a table by the door, but no menu, nothing for a good long while--and no one close enough to flag--finally got a young woman's attention, who was angry w/ her staff that I had been kept waiting--and then after I'd eaten, a waiter came by, thinking I'd just been seated and needed to order--when I said I had already eaten, he didn't seem chagrined--headed back to the counter and gestured in my direction to the same woman; and from what I could glean via lip-reading, she impatiently told him I was done.

                                                                                Will try again, based on the positive reviews on this site. But if it weren't for those, I'd feel no rush to return.

                                                                                1. Some friends went Thursday night, no pastries, they said the pastry chef was on vacation in Italy.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Dang. He went on vacation before Thanksgiving. Has anyone had a pastry since? I've called and/or popped in for pastries several times since. I hope he comes back...

                                                                                  2. Had a perfect meal last night.

                                                                                    Torta fritta were larger and softer than before, seemed like more bread, we didn't run out before we'd eaten all the salumi. I highly recommend the sparkling Bonarda with this dish.

                                                                                    They had run out of the spaghetti all'amatriciana so I got the tortelli, rich round filled pasta with a nice sugo. Tasted the lasagna was was very good and a preposterously large portion (took half home).

                                                                                    Split a 24-oz. T-bone steak with some of the best mashed potatoes I've ever had ($45). Delicious. The dressing on the salad that came with it was a little too sweet (balsamic) for my taste. An inexpensive Rosso di Montalcino was a good match.

                                                                                    Zabaglione made to order was excellent. I guess that probably means A. G. Ferrari stocks a first-rate Marsala (very hard to find these days).

                                                                                    I called last week to ask about buying some pastries, they said the pastry chef lost his visa and isn't coming back.

                                                                                      1. re: zippo

                                                                                        The new owner's bringing back the outdoor seating and happy hour, that's all good.

                                                                                        I hope Ferrari is OK, he's a nice guy.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                          Desco is open.
                                                                                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/912217

                                                                                          Wondering if you tried Scotti's restaurant, Donato Enoteca, in Redwood City. I've enjoyed his cooking there and earlier at La Strada in Palo Alto.

                                                                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                                            oh this is good to know - i used to enjoy La Strada back in the day. I will look forward to his new venue.

                                                                                            And I still miss those incredible desserts at Borgo.

                                                                                            1. re: escargot3

                                                                                              The pastry chef was long gone when Borgo closed.

                                                                                          1. re: zippo

                                                                                            Any other places to get torta fritta or gnocchi fritti in the Bay Area? I love Cotogna overall, but their version lacked elasticity and was not very good.

                                                                                            1. re: zippo

                                                                                              There is a letter on the door signed Paul Ferrari. It refers to the new incarnation as La Spiga/Desco. No signs of activity inside.

                                                                                            2. Well, here we are less than a year after I started this thread and I never got to try the place. Sorry to see it's gone.

                                                                                              1. Inside Scoop reports that Fabio Dalle Vacche is opening a new place next month at 101 ("Centouno") Broadway.

                                                                                                http://www.sfgate.com/food/insidescoo...

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                  Let's hope he can succeed! That spot has been Oakland's "Black Hole" equivalent of the Berkeley location where Rangoon Super Stars is something like the eighth restaurant in less than 15 yrs?

                                                                                                  Funny how some locations seem okay yet have a hard time succeeding.