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Desco - Regional Italian in Old Oakland

Melanie Wong Aug 6, 2013 12:07 PM

The press release announcing the opening of Desco just landed in my inbox. This is the new project from Donato Scotti, replacing Borga Italia. "Desco" means dinner table.

PR Highlights:
•Fresh pasta made in-house
•Neapolitan pizze and schiacciate prepared in a wood-fired oven
•Piatto della Casa, a housemade assortment of smoked duck, lamb prosciutto and rabbit terrine
•Casonsei, a rustic ravioli from Bergamo filled with pork and housemade sauge with a brown butter and guanciale sauce.
•All Italian wine varieties, 50 selections, 20 by the glass
•Full bar showcases classic cocktails, amaro and traditional Italian aperitivi and digestivi
•Afternoon happy hour with bar snacks
•50-seat dining room, 16 sidewalk seats, 10 counter seats

Desco is located at 499 9th Street, on the corner of Washington Street in Oakland, California. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner (dinner only for the next two weeks), Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The telephone number is (510) 663-9000 and web address is www.descooakland.com.


  1. r
    rubadubgdub Jan 14, 2014 09:44 AM

    Tonight's menu will feature Calabrian foods and southern Italian desserts based on recipes from Rosetta Costantino's cookbooks (and she will be there to sign):

    -Marinated fresh anchovies with red onion and parsley
    -Crispy eggplant meatballs
    -Creamy chick pea soup with shrimp and anise seed
    -Spaghetti with salt cod and a spicy tomato sauce
    -Housemade large ravioli with fresh ricotta and sopressata
    -“Bean pod” pasta with spicy lamb ragu
    -Swordfish “glutton’s style” with tomato, capers and olives
    -Stuffed pork rolls in tomato sauce Verbicaro style; potatoes layerd with artichokes
    -Baked lamb shoulder chops with artichokes, peas and breadcrumbs
    -Apple and ricotta cake
    -Ice cream ‘truffle” with dried figs and fig syrup

    1 Reply
    1. re: rubadubgdub
      Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2014 10:10 AM

      Some really interesting dishes in there.

    2. daveena Dec 7, 2013 12:33 PM

      I like this place a lot - I was a fan of La Strada when I lived in the South Bay, and was really happy to see Donato Scotti and his casonsei replace Borga Italia, which I'd had high hopes for but which had such terrible service that I walked out without ever being able to order dinner.

      So far, I've enjoyed every pasta I've had there, although I'd have to say - I think the casonsei were better at La Strada. Or maybe my tastes have changed. I don't think I'm crazy, though to say that I'm pretty sure the shape was different - a sort of 4-point (maybe 3-point) package where the edges all pointed up, so that the bottom was flat and got super browned in butter - it's more of a half-moon ravioli type shape now, which doesn't allow for as much browning. The pappardalle with lamb cheek sugo and the chitarrine with clams, olives, calamari, mussels, chili and bottarga are both great, and while the spaghetti carbonara isn't the best of it's class, it is still very satisfying. Portions are not enormous, but managed to be filling.

      The one miss so far has been the Piatto Della Casa, a platter of smoked duck, rabbit terrine, and roasted porchetta - the one I tried was underseasoned, and the terrine was dry somehow.

      Service is fast and professional, which makes Desco a reasonable lunchtime option. You can be seated, order a plate of pasta, pay, and be out in 30-40 minutes, without actually feeling rushed. $9-13 for pasta may be more than I'd normally pay for lunch, but honestly, it costs about as much and is way more restful than getting lunch from a food truck. They've also added less expensive sandwich items ($7-10) that I haven't tried yet.

      2 Replies
      1. re: daveena
        escargot3 Dec 7, 2013 02:03 PM

        I also used to enjoy meals at la Strada - well-prepped food, comfortable ambiance. I especially remember the tiramisu...

        1. re: daveena
          Rapini Jan 3, 2014 06:54 PM

          I agree.

          I've been working in the area, and now a have had three lunches at Desco--each one as good as the next. Very impressed with the pastas, which are perfectly al dente. Also tried a panini with pork belly, asiago & braised cabbage. I swear when I took the first bite, I saw god.

          Currently, one of my Oakland favorites.

        2. k
          karenfinan Oct 31, 2013 05:49 PM

          Ate there today for lunch. A bit spendy for everyday lunch, but very good quality. I had a fennel, pistachio and blood orange salad, and a mixed seafood pasta. The portions were just right, pasta delicious and lots of clams, octopus, mussels, and lovely light sauce. The salad was refreshing, dressing also very light, and let the Saldana ingredients shine. I hope this restaurant thrives.

          1. m
            MrSmart Oct 8, 2013 08:20 PM

            Appetizers - blah, skip it. Drink wine.

            Entrees - pasta: yes! Between the four of us everyone had good things to say about casonsei.

            Dessert - good. Standard stuff like zabaione, executed with enough decency and moral support.

            1. k
              Kayde Sep 19, 2013 01:11 PM

              We enjoyed everything about Donato Enoteca when we had business in Redwood City last year and are glad to see him open a spot nearby.

              1. Robert Lauriston Aug 25, 2013 11:13 AM

                Went last night. The menu isn't regional in the sense of being focused on any particular region. They took the word "schiacciate" off the menu and replaced it with "stretched."

                I had an appetizer of three kinds of fritters ($7). The chickpea ones were quite good, the eggplant and pea ones seemed undercooked.

                Tasted the octopus salad ($8), good though I thought the octopus could have been fried better.

                Pizza bianca with squid, olives, capers, and garlic ($12) was very tasty. The style is not Neapolitan, it was actually fairly similar to the pizzas B used to make. Thinnish, somewhat crisp, a bit of a crunch. Big enough to share.

                Tasted the paccheri (like big rigatoni) with eggplant, tomato, and ricotta ($12), really good.

                Very good price-quality ratio on the food, not so much on the wines.

                1. h
                  hyperbowler Aug 6, 2013 05:07 PM

                  Some more schiacciata background: http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/20...

                  I'll miss the torta frita of Borgo Italia, but this looks like an interesting menu. Not sure I've seen carta musica (a matzah-like flatbread) besides at La Ciccia. Are they making that fresh?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: hyperbowler
                    Melanie Wong Aug 6, 2013 05:10 PM

                    I should point out that the menu does not include a grape version like the schiacciata in your post's and my link.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                      RWCFoodie Aug 6, 2013 06:32 PM

                      Wouldn't it be nice if they did some "seasonal" shiacciata like uva, etc....

                      1. re: RWCFoodie
                        Melanie Wong Aug 6, 2013 06:42 PM

                        Problem is that table grapes don't really have enough flavor for the application. I've had them made with the tiny "champagne" grapes that appear around this time of year, and they're not that tasty once baked either. Maybe I'll show up at the restaurant next month with a sack of zinfandel grape clusters and see if they can handle BYO grapes.

                      2. re: Melanie Wong
                        Robert Lauriston Aug 7, 2013 10:29 AM

                        In my experience, Americans are usually disturbed by the seeds in schiacciata all'uva.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          RWCFoodie Aug 7, 2013 05:46 PM

                          Agreed... that is, unless you like the crunch!

                    2. Ruth Lafler Aug 6, 2013 12:39 PM

                      What the heck is "schiacciatte"?

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        Melanie Wong Aug 6, 2013 12:46 PM

                        Plural of schiacciata. :)

                        I've corrected the misspelling in my cut and paste of the press release. I only know the term in relation to the grape version because I've eaten it in the home of winegrowers in Sonoma County made with wine grape clusters during harvest time. Here's a recipe for the Tuscan flatbread, schiacciata con l'uva.


                        I've followed Chef Scotti from La Strada in Palo Alto to Donato Enoteca in Redwood City. He's talented and I'm looking forward to trying his new place in time. Though I'll add that I wasn't crazy about the casonsei the one time I tried 'em.

                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                          Ruth Lafler Aug 6, 2013 05:31 PM

                          I guess my point was that IMHO this menu (not the food, but the way it's described) is a little inaccessible to the average diner. A lot of people won't even walk in the door if they can't read half the menu!

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            Melanie Wong Aug 6, 2013 05:38 PM

                            Yep, I feel the same way about the first menu. Going a bit overboard to show that it is regional Italian.

                            Here's the Redwood City menu for comparison,

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              pane Aug 7, 2013 11:11 AM

                              Is schiacciata a non-entity on the West Coast? Where I grew up in the East, it's very common; in fact, when my mom picks me up from the airport, she usually brings some that she picks up at a bakery on the way over.

                              1. re: pane
                                Ruth Lafler Aug 7, 2013 12:18 PM

                                Apparently, since I've never seen the term before.

                                1. re: pane
                                  RWCFoodie Aug 7, 2013 05:45 PM

                                  The only reason I knew about it is we ate it in Italy... I believe in Rome and heading north from there.

                                  1. re: pane
                                    ...tm... Aug 8, 2013 02:00 AM

                                    Definitely not. I'm midwestern but I spent a semester in Rome, a few years in NYC, and 7 years here and I haven't noticed it as a regular player, though grape focaccia as a typical thing. Internet research (first-pass goggling) points to schiacciata as a Tuscan specialty, but most "East Coast" Italian regionalisms come from the south of Italy.

                                    1. re: ...tm...
                                      Robert Lauriston Aug 8, 2013 09:16 AM

                                      They use the word "schiacciata" in parts of Sicily as well, though there it means a double-crust filled pizza, a cousin of calzone.

                                    2. re: pane
                                      Melanie Wong Aug 9, 2013 03:12 PM

                                      I can't recall any examples other than at the owner's other restaurant, Donato Enoteca. He may have figured that if it could fly in Redwood City, Oaklanders could roll with it.

                                      Then I just saw this photo on Beth's Community Kitchen (Mill Valley) FB page,

                                2. re: Ruth Lafler
                                  RWCFoodie Aug 6, 2013 12:48 PM

                                  According to a quick search it's another way to say foccacia...

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