Weekly Dish: Mangia Mi Comes to Pleasanton
Danville Italian eatery expands to Pleasanton; knitting and sweets in Berkeley; chocolate cafe in Oakland; olio nuevo hits shelves; openings galore; and more in this week's Dish!
Danville's popular Italian restaurant Mangia Mi has signed a lease to open up a second restaurant just a quick drive down the 680 in downtown Pleasanton. Mangia Mi "due" will be located at 234 Main Street next to Fleet Feet, and chef-owner Peter Cedolini couldn't be happier. "We've passed up a lot of deals in the past because it wasn't quite right, but this one felt really comfortable," Cedolini says. "It'll have the same charm of being in a downtown but it's far enough away that we'll be serving a different clientele."
The new restaurant will be a little bigger, allowing for more seating and a more comfortable bar area, and have more of a rustic feel to suit the Pleasanton area. However, Cedolini said to expect a similar layout with an open kitchen and similar regional Italian menu with seasonal specials. Cedolini also said Mangia Mi is looking into leasing garden space from the city, as well as having on on-site garden, in order to grow its own herbs, lettuce, and tomatoes. Expect an April-ish, late spring opening for the Pleasanton reastaurant. 406 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 831-3276, mangia-mi.com
Exciting project coming to Ford Point in Richmond as East Bay restaurateur Richard Mazzera is taking over the Boilerhouse with plans to remake it into Assemble restaurant (credit to CCTimes). Located in the sprawling Craneway Pavilion, formerly a Ford automobile assembly plant, Mazzera plans a menu of "New American cuisine with all kinds of regional classics, from New Orleans to cioppino, Hog Island oysters and Dungeness crab." There will be plenty to drink while enjoying the Bay views, including "wines by the glass, cocktails from Manhattans to Mimosas, craft beers, house-made sodas, and hand packed teas." According to the Times, Mazzera also hopes to plant a victory garden that could serve as a sort of edible schoolyard-type project for Richmond schools. Assemble will also serve lunch and weekend brunch in addition to dinner. Mazzera, who is a Chez Panisse alum and co-founder of Cesar in Berkeley and will run the restaurant with his wife, ex Corso GM Terumi Shibata, hopes for a late January debut.
Looks like Fresh Choice, the oft-empty veggie-friendly buffet restaurant with a prime downtown Walnut Creek location, has closed. The Emeryville-based company has been shuttering most, if not all, of its 29 restaurants over the course of 2012—no word yet on what will replace it.
Not a good year for "fresh" restaurants: UK-based Fresh and Easy reportedly could be shutting down its many California grocery stores, with 19 in the Bay Area including recently opened locations in Concord, Danville, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek. The stores are apparently not making money and struggling to break into the state's competitive grocery market...
Not to worry, plenty of openings to report... Miss Ollie's, Sarah Kirnon's Afro-Caribbean concept in Old Oakland debuted for lunch last week; Rodney Worth's Pear Southern Bistro opened in downtown Napa; and Gianni's Italian Bistro launched in San Ramon. And by the way, Gianni's is celebrating its opening with free corkage all this week, so grab your best bottle of Sangiovese and get down there and check it out.
Also set to debut any day are Stelle's Bistro in downtown Walnut Creek, as well as Ravioli's new location replacing Toscana in Todos Santos Plaza in downtown Concord.
It's hard to keep up with the ebbs and flows of the volatile Dungeness crab season. Almost as soon as it was reported that the season was open and everyone has agreed to a price, came the news last week that local crabbers were going on strike yet again, threatening the precious supply of fresh crab for the Christmas holidays. Well, things have changed yet again, as it was announced yesterday that the strike is over. Bottom line according to Walnut Creek Yacht Club owner Kevin Weinberg, "the Christmas market doesn't appear to be in trouble. Of course the weather could always step in and mess it up..."
That's good news for crab lovers. And if you don't feel like buying and steaming and cracking those tough little buggers yourself (I swear, I thought I was going to have to concede defeat to one particularly feisty crab I was trying to force into the pot the other night), the Yacht Club is hosting its 15th annual Crab Party next Wednesday, December 19, as well as on New Year's Eve. $55 gets you a couple of appetizers, a triple Tcho chocolate brownie, and of course, local chilled Dungeness crab served with fries, coleslaw, cocktail sauce and lemon aioli (CLICK HERE for the menu).
One other crab fest for you hardcores... The Christmas Eve Crab Feast at Bocanova is a five-course family-style menu from Chef/Owner Rick Hackett and Executive Chef John Ledbetter featuring Dungeness crab in multiple incarnations, including crab tamale with cucumber salsa, and a crab Louis Salad with pickled beets, paired with dishes such as Onion Gratin with aji Amarillo, and Wilted Arugula with spiced pumpkin seeds. It's $68 per person. 55 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 444-1233, bocanova.com
On a more land-related note, Tender Greens executive chef Sean Canavan is hosting a butchering demo in which he's taking apart a whole hog, followed (if you haven't lost your appetite) by a cooking class and dinner this Sunday, December 16. Sounds pretty interesting for those of you that are interested in where your meat comes from—it's the second class of what will be a regular series hosted by Canavan at Tender Greens. The demo starts at 3 p.m., is $100, and there should still be a couple spots left: email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a spot. 1352 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-5100, tendergreens.com
Get in line now, burrito-lovers. Freebirds World Burritos is holding its grand opening at 1512 Geary Street in Walnut Creek on Monday, December 17 and the first 25 guests will get free burritos for a year (there must be some fine print there, but that's what they're claiming...). The Chipotle-esque burrito chain (90 locations) is also hosting a cool fundraiser event this Saturday that will be open to the public—from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Freebirds is offering complementary food to anyone who makes a $5 donation to Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation, and will do the same from 5 to 7 p.m. for the Food bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Sounds like a win-win...
Wanted to get a mini shout-out to Pancoast Pizza, the sorta-new pizza spot down at 1516 South Main Street near Kaiser hospital. Started by Philly-native Robert Pancoast (yes, that's his real name) and his wife Julie, both professionally trained chefs who have worked in local restaurants, its an East Coast-style shop with thin-crust New York-style pizza and "hoagie" sandwiches. I finally had a chance to try their pizza and liked it a lot. It's not gourmet, necessarily, but it's not trying to be. Instead it's just the kind of solid, well-executed thin crust that's common on the East Coast but not as much here; they're obviously using quality ingredients and it was definitely a cut above most of the other take-out/delivery pizza spots in the area. I tried the esquared: Italian sausage with fennel, green olives, and little nuggets of ricotta cheese. Italian hoagie was tasty too. Good pie, check em out! 1516 South Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-1178, pancoastpizza.com.
Couple of interesting cafe openings to report in the 510.
According to Tablehopper, Timeless Coffee is a new roastery/bakery/chocolatier at 4252 Piedmont Ave that was started by Robert Leimpeter, the former head coffee roaster at cult SF roaster Sightglass Coffee. I think it's open: no phone number listed but the restaurant tweeted that it had opened yesterday so I suppose that's confirmation of sorts.
Also per Tablehopper (and much to the delight of Diablo's crafty, sweet-toothed managing editor), Cakes and Purls opened in downtown Berkeley. Manager-owner Marie Sitaro has a lifelong love of both baking (she has ten years experience baking at restaurants and hotels and has a degree in pastry arts form the New York Art Institute) and knitting (she worked at Piedmont Yarn for the last two years). At Cakes and Pearls she'll be serving "small-batch" desserts made with quality ingredients and hopes to combine her two passions into "a welcoming environment for patrons to enjoy desserts and work on their fiber arts." Sounds relaxing... 2115 Allston Way, Berkeley, cakesandpurls.com.
If you want to partake of Wente's take-home Holiday dinners, this coming Monday, December 17 is the last day to order a prime rib ($289) or salmon dinner ($239), each with an artisan cheese display, brown butter mashed potatoes with scallions and parsley, winter root vegetables with Meyer lemon butter and a dessert options. Feeds up to six and you can pick it up Christmas eve from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CLICK HERE for all the info and to order.
The Pasta Shop In Rockridge and Berkeley's Fourth Street (whichby the way looks absolutely gorgeous lit up with lights for the holidays) also offers take-home holiday meals, and makes it easy by allowing you to custom-order your meal online. CLICK HERE to check it out. Nice event coming to the Berkeley store: The Cooks’ Holiday Book Fair this Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. will host several authors who will be on hand to sign copies of their cookbooks. Authors attending and their books below. Makes a great Christmas gift...
Bruce Aidells, GREAT MEAT COOKBOOK, Everything You Need to Know to Buy and Cook Today’s Meat, newly revised;
Shelley Lindgren and Matt Accarrino, SPQR, Modern Italian Food and Wine;
Alice Medrich, SINFULLY EASY DELICIOUS DESSERTS, Quicker Smarter Recipes;
Cheryl Sternman Rule, RIPE, A Fresh, Colorful Approach to Fruits and Vegetables;
Laura Werlin, MAC & CHEESE, PLEASE! and GRILLED CHEESE, PLEASE!
Also now on sale at The Pasta Shop, as well as Walnut Creek's excellent olive oil shop, We Olive: Olio Nuovo. That's fresh-pressed olive oil that hasn't been sitting around and still has a super-fresh, zesty, robust, grassy flavor. It's fun to taste if you've never had it before, and I think We Olive explains it best: "This robust and peppery oil starts off buttery smooth and then ends with a zesty pungency and bitterness. Perfect for pouring over your wintertime toasts, turkey, and vegetables. A true Epicurean delight!" We Olive is pouring local California olio nuovo in bulk, while The Pasta Shop has it from California as well as Tuscany and Sicily (word is that the Katz olio nuovo from Napa is excellent this year...).
Also, don't forget truffle-lovers that The Pasta Shop has white and black truffles for sale for those in the mood: price is $415/ounce for Italian white truffles from Alba and $115/ounce for the Fall black truffles.
The new Corner Bakery debuted in Pleasanton on Monday. I had a chance to chat with John Sweeney, who is heading the new location, and is also involved with scouting for the 32 new stores planned for the Bay Area (including one that was just signed for downtown Pleasant Hill). Contrary to the name, Corner is not just a bakery, rather it has more of a "fast-casual" Panera Bread-type concept with hot breakfast such as scrambles and French toast in the morning, plus chicken, pasta, salads, and grilled sandwiches for lunch and dinner (all for under $9), in addition to the baked goods options (Sweeney recommends the bundt cakes, in particular the seasonal gingerbread pumpkin cake now available). "It started in Chicago 20 years ago," says Sweeney, "and as its evolved, it has become a place where people can come and get great food and feel comfortable. We want to create a welcoming atmosphere for each community we serve."
Sweeney said there would be raffle prize drawings during the Pleasanton store's first ten days in business with prizes including free paninis for a year and free catering to local businesses. He also mentioned that Corner are hoping to open the Pleasant Hill store by next May and are actively pursuing leases at several other East Bay locations. 6770 Bernal Ave. Ste 450, Pleasanton, (925) 484-0102, cornerbakerycafe.com
salami, olives, pickled vegetables
Warm Acme Levain
Iceberg & Local Albacore Confit Salad
roasted red pepper, lemon-oregano dressing
Local Dungeness Crab
chilled, regatta fries, coleslaw,
cocktail sauce, and lemon aioli
Triple TCHO Chocolate Brownie
warm peanut butter-caramel sauce
vanilla bean ice cream
roasted salted peanuts
$55.00 dollars per person
tax and gratuity not included