Trabocco Review (Alameda)
We had an uneven but promising first meal last night. The restaurant is glossy and modern, design-y in a way that is unusual for Alameda, and even more so given its location in the South Shore Shopping Center. The chef is from Abruzzo, a region I have zero familiarity with, but the menu is studded with dishes I haven’t seen before (chitarrine al cacao with rabbit ragu, gnocchi in a squash, mushroom and white wine sauce) that I assumed were regional.
Pizzas were very good – beautifully charred crusts, more tender than crisp, maybe a bit thicker around the edge than ideal, but very good. We enjoyed one with sausage and broccoli rabe, and one with crisp slices of potato and huge, fat, fresh mussels.
The chitarrine was marred by crunchy clumps of pasta that had stuck together and not cooked fully, and the rabbit ragu was too heavy on sweet spices for my taste. Other pasta dishes on the menu (that we did not get to try) include an oxtail stuffed ravioli, and a butternut squash agnolotti.
The pork chop is a beautiful thing, smoky from the oven, a touch more done than I’d normally want, but so flavorful it made up for it.
The most compelling thing, though was the dish we couldn’t get – there is a different rotisserie meat each night, and we had the unfortunate luck to miss out on rabbit. They plan to rotate chicken, duck, rabbit, pork and goat in the future. I plan to call ahead on random days until I hit a rabbit day, and will try to pre-order one if they let me.
The restaurant was near full but not excessively loud, despite the general lack of soft surfaces, and service was enthusiastic, even exuberant. They have a private dining room for 16, as well as an outdoor patio space.
I agree that this restaurant is pretty, but I think, no offense intended to the original poster, that this is a case of the emperor who has no clothes.
Our visit consisted of a waiter who spoke to us in Italian and corrected our pronunciation of EVERY dish (annoying!)
Even more annoying was the chef who yelled out in Italian EVERY time someone came in or out of the door - it was like a scene from a Seinfeld episode.
The food, meh, I had a salmon salad for lunch - the greens were dressed with an overly lemony vinaigrette (read:pucker up) and 2 very small slices of salmon for $18 and my girlfriend had some sort of squash-filled pasta absolutely swimming in melted butter - the filling? not great, also pricy.
To top it off, although we were one of the few (3) tables at lunch the waiter and busser insisted on clearing on the side of the table that I had my legs crossed on (what can I say, I'm tall!) not once not twice but three times he stood and WAITED for me to uncross my legs so he could serve or clear a plate - he could easily have done so from the other side of the table. Annoying.
There was another waiter there who walked around mumbling to himself in Italian, seems to be the only criteria for being hired.
All in all, the locals seem impressed likely because they are not particularly sophisticated (hey, it has to be a step up from Applebees, which is a few feet away) and Panera down the row.
I'm sure the chef/owner, who had a corporate job for many years, fancies himself a big restauranteur, (he touted his restaurant as the 'best' before it even opened) but despite the investment in expensive furnishings and the pricy build-out in the mall, the proof is in the pudding so to speak, and this foodie was NOT impressed by the food at all.
If you're happy to have an overpriced and overhyped and poorly served meal, feel free to try it. There are so many other wonderful choices for a truly great meal in the east bay (and yes even in Alameda) that I will definitely pass.
I went last week for dinner and was pleasantly surprised with Trabocco.
The service was fine--none of the troubles or pretentiousness described by previous reviewers. I could kind of hear the owner/pizziaolo calling out hellos and goodbyes from his station. With all the hubbub of the space, it wasn't intrusive to my meal, though I did find it kind of cheesy like oldschool restaurateurs who go through their establishment glad-handing their regulars. But then, we have exalted our chefs to celebrity status and these people were eating it up! Who doesn't want to be "in the know"?
We started our meal with the grilled octopus and the baccala. I was so excited to see octopus on the menu, especially grilled, as it is not a ubiquitous menu item. It was tender, well seasoned, and deliciously smoky with caramelized edges. We were also impressed with the presentation and taste of the baccala--shredded atop a polenta "croquette". And our mains were yummy as well: whole, grilled fish (not overcooked yet with crispy, smoky skin) and the porchetta (perfectly seasoned for this salt fiend, juicy and flavorful).
It's a big and beautiful space. I'm excited to have a delicious choice for outdoor eating, despite overlooking the mall. I am surprised that Alameda is so enthusiastically embracing food at such a high price point. But this place is offering dishes not available at other island establishments, even the date-night spots. I look forward to going back with my ladies or with the hubby and trying a pizza (though what's with those pizza scissors?!), more octopus dishes, and cocktails on the patio.
I finally made it over there last night -- I'd been avoiding it because it seemed kind of glossy and expensive (for Alameda), but Melanie called and wanted to check out the DOTM Margherita pizza (we thought the pizza shears were cool). I didn't notice anyone yelling at customers when they came in the door, and our server was proficient and knowledgeable about their surprisingly extensive wine list. Overall, I thought it was sophisticated for Alameda, both the atmosphere and the food (a whole page of Italian whites? In Alameda!?). Unlike Daveena, I did find it loud but not intolerable. We were there at peak dinner hour and the place was pretty full, though. As it started to clear out, the noise level dropped considerably.
Prices are high ($30+ entrees in Alameda?!), but they split a pasta for us, and each portion would have been a generous dish in most comparable SF restaurants. The octopus antipasto was also substantial, so I think sharing is a good option here. Our waitress also had no problem splitting each of our two single glasses of wine (so, four half glasses).
In addition to the octopus (which was good, even for this person who isn't crazy about octopus), we had the chitarrine with the rabbit ragu Daveena mentioned. The pasta was cooked properly, but could have been more supple. The ragu was actually on the acidic side, but tasty, I thought. Unfortunately, there were quite a few small (and a couple of larger) pieces of bone, which we probably should have mentioned to our server (if the bones are inescapable in that prep, they should at least be mentioned).
The Margherita was a good version. Not as thin (but also not as damp) as a Neapolitan style, but still thin and supple, with a good char and flavorful crust. Melanie noted they hadn't skimped on the basil, and the tomatoes weren't candy-sweet. I don't think it's going to lure me over from East End, though (now I'll have to try their Margherita for comparison!). So I guess my verdict is that it's too expensive for a casual drop in, but I might go back for a more special occasion.
We have been to Trabocco at least half a dozen times. We prefer dinner to lunch, mostly because of the baccala dish. We are salt cod fiends and there is no other restaurant we know of in the EBay who makes a similar dish to chef Naccarelli's version. He said this is his grandmother's recipe, which she made once a year for the Feast of Seven Fishes.
This is top quality salt cod, not the crappy kind you find mushed up with mashed potatoes for deep-fried fritters. Good bacalhao can cost more than filet mignon.
The carpaccio is also top-notch. DO NOT squeeze the included lemon wedge over the beef; it is already dressed with a magnificently subtle Meyer lemon EVOO and perfect as is.
We don't care for the pizza, but we don't usually order it at upscale restaurants anyway (one of my family did, which is how we tried it, but we weren't impressed).
The pastas were properly sauced originally, but we have noticed that there is more sauce on them lately, probably a response to the usual American expectations based on decades of Cal-Italian plates flooded with Bolognese sauce.
It's a good thing islandmama never ate at the little Italian restaurant that used to be in Montclair Village/Oakland - the waiters and cooks were always yelling in Italian at one another, and sometimes sang along to the operatic arias on the sound system!
The service reminds me a lot of the old North Beach/SF restaurants, actually. We get along fine with them; you just have to 'go with the flow.'
If we were to rank Lungomare, Desco, Centouno (now gone) and Riva Cucina against Trabocco, it would be:
Tied for first: Desco and Trabocco. Each has its strengths; each has a few flaws.
Riva Cucina 2nd place. In the beginning their food was stunning; but locals didn't support the prices and the quality cheapened. We appreciate they have kept the breadcrumb pasta that for some reason no one else offers. The service has improved immensely from a rocky start, however.
Centouno 3rd place. More flaws than Desco and Trabocco, and the owner-chef had absolutely no idea how to publicize his business. He was totally lost in a world going ever-faster to hi-tech; he couldn't even get the right menu up on his website.
Lungomare 4th place: every once in a while Lungomare pulls off a perfect dish, and it's a stunner. But they are erratic and the staff is very poorly trained for a supposed flagship of Pastena's mini-empire. Too many huge flaws although their pastas are some of the best.
Thanks to Ruth for being my spur-of-the-moment dining companion and reporting on our dinner.
The grilled octopus appetizer was as masterfully cooked as they come. Very tender without being mushy, crisp edges and a little smoke tone from grilling and retaining the natural gelatin. The combination itself with grilled potatoes was a bit on the bland side for me, guess I'm eating too much octopus spiked with pimenton lately.
The chitarrine with the rabbit ragu was recommended highly by our server, but I don't think that I will pass that one along. My portion had too many bones in it, also hard uncooked or dried lengths of pasta. I'm not sure that I appreciated the cocoa in the pasta either.
I liked the wine by the glass selection. We had the Kerner and a Rose Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo. The wines were portioned into a small carafe, then split between two glasses at the table.
re: Melanie Wong
We went for our anniversary and my birthday and both times sat at the counter right in front of the pizza oven. Since I work at the Trader Joe's at the Center, I see Chef and some of his people occasionally and they know me.
Anniversary: The food was delightful: Risotto with Rabbit Ragu and Duck with a yummy sauce (couldn't quite figure it out) and really good polenta. Loved the carpaccio and the grilled pear on the salad we shared paired with the creamy gorgonzola beautifully. With dinner I had a Montepulciano that is made by a friend of Chef that was just right. For dessert, we shared a flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel gelato. Chef made sure to write "Happy Anniversary" on the plate and it ended being their gift to us.
Birthday: Had to try the pizza. Daughter got a Margarita with spicy sausage, I got the one with mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, proscuitto, arugula & truffle oil and Hubby got the Salumi combo. The shears were fun and I had the Kerner (which I love), Daughter got an Italian soda and Hubby went back to the Montepulciano. Chef made a dessert plate with Triamisu and a candle and sang me Happy Birthday. I liked my pizza, but my daughter's was really good. I'll probably skip the arugula next time.
Definitely more of a special occasion place price wise, but since sharing is not a big deal, it could be doable more often.
Thanks for your report!
Since I was there to try the Margherita for August's dish of the month, when our server announced that roast duck risotto was one of the day's special, both of us cracked up that we also had the opportunity to cover July's DOTM. I'd like to go back and try more of the BTG list.