Weekly Dish: Ferrari Time in Danville
Rod Worth's new Italian restaurant open in Blackhawk Plaza; Old Oakland update; Firehouse No 37 debuts in San Ramon; Teacake closes in Lafayette; gourmet doughnuts in Oakland; a shout-out to Citra Grill; and more in this week's Dish!
OK, back from a one-week summer vacation (I was visiting family in New England, CLICK HERE to see what occupied most of my time...), let's get going!
After a few delays, Ferrari's, the cucina Italiana from restaurateur Rodney Worth is ready to open it's doors in Blackhawk Plaza. Exactly when? Well, the official opening date is tomorrow, but word is that if you drop by today you won't be disappointed... Occupying the former Stomp wine bar, Ferrari's will be Worth's first all-Italian concept and diners can expect fresh-made pasta and flatbread pizzas featuring local and authentic Italian ingredients, panini, antipasti, salads, and a large selection of California and Italian wines. CLICK HERE to check the Facebook page. 3451 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, Danville.
Meanwhile, the other Ferrari-related restaurant, AG Ferrari-owner Paul Ferrari's Borgo Italia bar & cafe has run into some delays and is still likely a few weeks away.
Which reminds me, here's a few updates on the food scene in hoppin' Old Oakland...
⇒ Umami Mart, which offers exclusively Japanese cooking and barware has opened on Broadway. Had a chance to pop in the other day and it looked great—packed with typically interesting, elegant, and unique products (pickle press, samurai sword-like pairing knives, gold cocktail shakers) that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else. umamimart.com.
⇒ The popular SF-based Rosamunde Sausage Grill is still coming to the Swan Marketplace, but not until after this summer. Owner Josh Margolis needed to get a conditional use permit for his sausage-centric eatery, which he's done, but it's looking like the Oakland location won't be open until mid-fall, likely October. In the meantime, Margolis will be opening a new Rosamunde in Brooklyn's uber-hip Williamsburg neighborhood in about two weeks. The Lower Haight and the Mission in San Francisco, Williamsburg in Brooklyn... and Old Oakland—pretty good company for this burgeoning hood... rosamundesausagegrill.com
⇒ Meanwhile, former Hibiscus chef Sarah Kirnon says her solo project, Miss Ollie's, is cranking along and she's also hoping to open in Swan Market by mid-October and possible sooner. Kirnon, who has been holding a series of pop-up dinners in preparation, says the menu will feature traditional Caribbean flavors (the restaurant is named after her grandmother who raised her in Barbados) including rotis (West-Indian influenced stuffed flour pancakes), Jamaican saltfish and ackee, as well as dishes from Cuba, Panama—and of course, Kirnon's popular fried chicken. The vibe will be casual, with order at the counter service at lunch, and there will be a full bar and a mostly California wine list that includes plenty of offerings from the East Bay's burgeoning urban winery scene. facebook.com/MissOllies
⇒ Also had a chance to swing by District, the new wine bar that replaced Levende East, and liked it a lot. It's a gorgeous spot, the redesigned interior feels open with big windows to show off the beautiful Old Oakland cityscape outside. Interesting wine list and solid food too, including a killer cheese plate with an incredible truffle tremor goat from Cow Girl Creamery, which earned the coveted "yummy" designation from my wife... Great spot for a glass of wine, check 'em out. 827 Washington St., Oakland, (510) 272-9110, districtoak.com.
⇒ Finally, we included Cosecha in August's Taco round-up, but I can't tell you what a cool place this is—try their decadent pork belly taco, torta sandwich, or my favorite, the shrimp taco, which is served only on Fridays—coincidentally the best day to check out Old Oakland when the weekly farmer's market is in full swing. They're also now open for dinner on Thursday through Saturday. 907 Washington St., Oakland, (510) 452-5900, cosechacafe.com.
Speaking of the urban wine scene, check it out for yourself at this Saturday's Urban Wine Experience. Hosted at Alameda's Rock Wall Winery, the 1-5 p.m. event will feature wines from 18 East Bay wineries, all of which will be paired with food from local restaurants. Good opportunity to check out all the cool wines coming out of Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda, and Rock Wall's location on the edge of Alameda overlooking San Francisco is pretty spectacular as well. Go to eastbayvintners.com/urban-wine-experience for tickets and more info.
San Ramon diners (and drinkers) will get a first look at the new Firehouse No. 37 this weekend as Saturday marks the grand opening for Basil Leaf Cafe-owner Dan Hawkin's new restaurant and bar. A separated full bar will serve upwards of 50 craft beers on tap, while the family-friendly dining room will sport a retro firehouse decor along with suped-up gastropub fare such as sliders, pizzas, baby back pork ribs, and fish & chips. 250 Market Place, San Ramon, (925) 380-6565, firehouse37.com
Speaking of gastropub, it's a concept that has become so popular in recent years that Merriam-Webster actually included the term in this year's list of 100 new words. Thanks to Handles, yes, Gastropub in Pleasanton for forwarding that bit of news along...
Sad news in Lafayette as the always-delicious Teacake Bake Shop closed its doors a couple weeks ago. I spoke with owner Agnes Hsu, who told me the main reason for the closure was the new Whole Foods opening down the street this spring, which she estimated siphoned off about 25% of the shop's business. "It's too bad, but I think people should realize what an impact these huge markets have on the smaller, independently owned businesses." Hsu also cited increased competition in the red-hot bake shop sector (SusieCakes bakery is opening down the street this fall) as another factor. Luckily, Teacake fans can always go to one of Hsu's three other locations, which will remain open, including one in Emeryville's Bay Street shopping center.
Hsu said that another bakery, focusing more on cakes versus cupcakes, would be replacing Teacake in the Lafayette location.
A little sweeter news, as it looks like beloved Berkeley ice cream shop Sketch has set it's reopening date for next Friday, August 24. Husband-and-wife team Eric Shelton and Ruthie Planar-Shelton shuttered their foodie shop featuring organic, seasonal ice cream flavors three years ago to spend more time with their daughter, and are reopening in a new, bigger location at 2080 Fourth Street.
Upcoming Walnut Creek artisan ice creamery Lottie's just announced a new Kickstarter campaign. CLICK HERE to read all about Lottie's, but it's a really cool concept to bring made-from-scratch, gourmet ice cream to downtown Walnut Creek (they'll be the only spot in the Bay Area to use their own pasteurizer to make custom ice cream bases). So if you're an ice cream fan, CLICK HERE to check out the Kickstarter campaign and kick in a few bucks—hey, you'll get cool prizes, including free pints, for your generosity.
Also, I missed this, but according to the Martinez Gazette, Le Gâteau Élégant bakery will be relocating from downtown Martinez to Walnut Creek at 1479 Newell Ave., former home to Delices Desserts.
In Berkeley, it sounds like Bartavelle, the coffee and wine bar replacing Cafe Fanny, won't be opening until mid-September. Owner Suzanne Drexhage referenced some last-minute building issues for the delay, but said things were falling into place and that customers could soon expect java from SF roasters Sightglass coffee, pizza bianca sandwiches made from Acme bread, doughnuts from Oakland's Doughnut Dolly, a variety of seasonal small plates, and a rotating selection of wine headlined by selections from next door's Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant.
As for taking over for Alice Water's beloved cafe? "Well, we won't be serving the big café au laits or poached eggs, and some people will have a harder time with that than others," Drexhage laughed. "It'll be different but I think people will find that the spirit is similar—a small community-minded place that's really friendly and comfortable for all kinds of people, that is focused on making quality, locally sourced food." 1603 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, facebook.com/BartavelleCoffeeWine.
And by the way, Doughnut Dolly, the long awaited foodie doughnut shop, is finally open as of today (Wednesday) in Temescal Alley behind Pizzaiolo. Look for flavors like crème fraîche, raspberry jam, and salted Mexican chocolate from these "handmade, yeast raised doughnuts." (can't tell me those ones on the right don't look good...) 482 B 49th St, Oakland, (510) 338-6738, doughnutdolly.com.
Per Tablehopper, a new gourmet ramen spot is opening in Oakland's Chinatown (24-hour broth using organic pork and chicken bones, plus custom-made organic noodles). This follows the news that ex-Chez Panisse maitre d' Sam White is bringing a traditional ramen shop to Oakland's Rockridge district by the end of the year. And per East Bay Dish, Portal, offering "an eclectic menu based on European and Eastern cuisine," opened on the Eastern shores of Lake Merritt at 1611 2nd Ave and will have a Grand Opening on August 23.
Check out the Berkeley Coffee and Tea Festival this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza. CLICK HERE for tickets and details.
Finally, every Saturday through September, retail shops and eateries in downtown Pleasanton, including Handles and Grape Times wine bar, will be offering special deals: CLICK HERE for specifics.
SHOUT-OUT OF THE WEEK: CITRA GRILL
So I had a chance to go to Citra, which just opened in downtown Walnut Creek, kitty corner to the Cheesecake Factory and across the street from the movie theater. This is Silicon Valley veteran Ramin Behtash's first restaurant, and it seems like he's experienced every single setback imaginable trying to open—he was originally hoping to debut last October. Well, some of those first-time jitters showed when I swung by earlier this week. The menu board remained un-mounted and was sitting on a row of chairs off to the side, the bread oven wasn't working meaning one of the key cogs in the restaurant's streamlined menu was unavailable, and the restaurant beat a hasty retreat from its initial, unrealistically high price structure (some items were cut by as much as 50%).
But despite all the issues, I really liked the restaurant. The interior is bright, colorful, and airy—just very pleasant—with huge windows that can open to the outside on warm days (there's also some outdoor seating). As for the food, while I was annoyed about the no-bread thing (I'm an unrepentant carb-lover), I really enjoyed the fresh-grilled skewers. I tried the chicken (very good) and the shrimp (moist, bouncy, and excellent)—there's also halibut, salmon, filet mignon, and vegetables onthe menu. What Citra has going for it is that it serves fresh, healthy food that is prepared simply (grilled with olive oil) and quickly to order. Bottom line is that I think there's a need for that kind of food formula in that area of Walnut Creek to serve as an alternative to Cheesecake Factory, Buckhorn Grill, and Chipotle (which I love, but there's only so many burritos you can eat). And now that they've lowered the prices, it's a pretty affordable meal too (prices range from $5.50 for one veggie skewer to $14 for two halibut skewers, all served with bread and a couple of sides). In addition, Citra offers salads, soups, and some tasty-looking desserts... so check 'em out!
1550 Olympic Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 932-4872