Weekly Dish: Desco Replaces Borgo in Oakland
Italian swaps for Italian in Old Oakland; Comal expansion plans in Berkeley; Corner Bakery headed for Walnut Creek; pita replaces hot dogs in Danville; Bull Valley Roadhouse debuts brunch in Port Costa; and more in this week's Dish!
Less than a year after opening to several glowing reviews (including from yours truly), Borgo Italia is changing hands. Owner Paul Ferrari, who opened the Italian eatery in the former B Restaurant space in Old Oakland, sold the business to South Bay Italian restaurateur Donato Scotti. A native Italian who runs the popular Donato Enoteca in Redwood City, Scotti will be opening up his own trattoria-style Italian eatery Desco in late July, early August. Borgo's last day of service was Monday.
Scotti, who says the new restaurant will be more casual than his Enoteca, plans a menu of seasonally fresh, ingredient-driven regional Italian cuisine including fresh pasta and pizza from the existing wood-fired oven. There will also be a "robust Italian wine program" under wine director Eric Lecours, a full bar with classic cocktails plus amaro, aperitivi and digestivi, outdoor seating, and an afternoon happy hour with Italian bar snacks. "It's going to be very authentic, we'll bring in an Italian chef to run things, and we want to improve the overall experience," says Scotti, who told me he "fell in love" with the century-old brick building at Ninth and Washington streets at first glance. "It's just beautiful, between the building and the neighborhood, you get this old town feeling that could be anywhere in Europe. We're planning farm-to-table kind of food, and we think it can be a very successful and fun place for a lot of people."
Borgo's closure comes as a bit of shocker considering Ferrari, who runs Italian foods importer AG Ferrari, just opened the restaurant last September with partners Franco Camboli and Fabio Dalle Vacche. Still, if you read the first couple paragraphs of my February story, it was clear even back then that the partnership had the potential to be highly combustible. Whether or not that had anything to do with Ferrari's decision to sell, I'm not sure (I couldn't get a hold of him for comment). But regardless, I will miss Borgo's simple, delicious tagliatelle ragu and heavenly torta fritta appetizer—while looking forward to what Scotti has in store for Desco.
Whoa, more big news in the 510, as word comes from Berkeleyside that the owners of downtown Berkeley’s popular upscale Mexican joint Comal have plans for a new restaurant in the city’s quaint Elmwood neighborhood. Click here for all the details, but sounds like owners John Paluska and Andrew Hoffman are eying 2635 Ashby Avenue, a large, 3,400-square-foot recently renovated space at just off of College Ave. And while they hope to have a similarly hip, communal vibe as Comal (also craft cocktails and open for lunch and dinner), the food will not be Mexican, but rather northern Californian in influence.
But as Berkeleyside points out, this is far from a done deal. Plans are very preliminary and the owners would have to be granted an exception by the city from the neighborhood’s fairly strict restaurant quota system, which limits the number of restaurants and already prevented another eating establishment from occupying that same space several years ago. They’ll be holding a community open house at 2635 Ashby Ave. on Monday, July 1, at 7 p.m. to discus the project and unveil more detailed plans.
Paluska told me that he was actually originally looking at that location for Comal before settling on downtown Berkeley, and has kept the space in mind ever since. While any opening is “many months, if not a year” from happening, he affirmed the potential restaurant would have its own executive chef, while Matt Gandin would continue to oversee Comal.
And we would be remiss not to note that Berkeley’s culinary grande dame Alice Waters has at last reopened her Chez Panisse on North Shattuck after a fire forced its closure in early March.
The long-vacant Marie Callender’s space on Mt Diablo Boulevard next to Genoa deli in Walnut Creek has been filled. According to city officials it will be occupied by Corner Bakery Café, the rapidly expanding fast-casual chain with recently opened locations in Pleasanton and Pleasant Hill. No word yet on opening date, but I’ll keep you posted…
Down the street, executive chef Rick Delamain will no longer be running the show at Cypress. Delamain told me that he had sold most of his ownership in the restaurant and was at the very least “taking the summer off” to spend more time with his family. Delamain wasn't sure if he’d be back, but said that regardless, the plan was to keep the same modern French concept except with different management. Delamain declined to ID the new owner, but word on the street is that landlord Jack Dudum is taking a more hands-on role in the restaurant.
The Blackhawk Plaza area will soon have some more dining options. Michael Hughes, co-owner of Baci Bar & Bistro, says he’s very close to launching the new Baci Cafe in Danville. Taking the place of Strizzi’s at 3456 Camino Tassajara, Baci should officially be open Friday, July 5, with an affordable menu (nothing over $30) focusing on pastas, steak, and fresh seafood.
And in the shopping center itself, Fieldhouse Sports Grill & Tavern is about a month away from launching in the former Roti8 space. Owner Mike Banducci is tentatively shooting for a July 19 debut for his sports bar and grill, which will serve suped-up pub fare with a healthy twist and have 25-plus televisions to catch the big game. Check out their Facebook page for updates.
Another new restaurant debuting soon is Piccolo Napoli, the artisan thin-crust pizzeria replacing Bonfire Pizzeria in Orinda’s Theatre Square. The Eberle clan (co-owners Peter and Maria and their four children) are doing a soft opening (shhhh…) this weekend, and will offer a limited menu of just pizza, gelato, and a couple of pastas, with more dishes and specials rolling out in subsequent weeks. A value-oriented wine list will feature Italian and California wines by the glass and bottle, there are five beers on tap, and they will have gluten-free crust options available.
Pita will replace hot dogs in Danville. The Dog on Hartz Avenue is getting transformed into Vegoz, a healthy fast food spot offering fresh-made pita served with your choice of fillings including shawarma and falafel. Owner Yaniv Benaroya is an Alamo resident with a self-described “passion for pita”—he’s been making it for nearly 20 years since he graduated high school. He labels the restaurant as a sort of Mediterranean alternative to Chipotle and is hoping to open in mid-August. Go to vegoz.com for more details.
There could be a new wine lounge headed for downtown Pleasant Hill. Sean Andrade, former executive chef and sommelier at Compass Star in Martinez, is in negotiations for a space on Crescent Drive to open KANA, a tapas-style restaurant and wine lounge. Food will be International-style small plates with Hawaiian flair paired with a large list of hand-selected wines available by the glass as well as artisanal small craft beers from local breweries. Nothing is finalized yet, but Andrade is hopeful to debut his restaurant early next year.
Good news for those hesitant to tackle the winding drive down to Port Costa at night: Bull Valley Roadhouse is now open for weekend brunch! The upscale comfort food restaurant has received tons of good reviews, including a spot in the Chron’s top-100 Bay Area restaurants and a rave write-up earlier this year in Diablo, since it opened last October. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and click here for the menu, which includes the light—several salads and a farmers market scramble with summer squash, goat cheese, and grilled levain—as well as the heavy—braised pork stew and their excellent fried chicken.
Okay a tapas-style food news from the (510)…
► Upcoming Pathos Organic Greek Kitchen in downtown Berkeley unveiled elegant interior renderings last week, and now have a menu available for perusal online. CLICK HERE and scroll down...
► Per East Bay Express, gourmet takeout eatery Gregoire is now serving breakfast at its Berkeley shop in the Gourmet Ghetto.
► Marrow, the whole animal, meat-centric lunch spot opened by Jon's Street Eats founder Jon Kosorek in Uptown Oakland has been getting some nice buzz—and now it's open, sometimes, for breakfast and dinner: check Facebook for updates.
► Per Eater, Encuentro Café and Wine Bar is relocating a few blocks away to the corner of 2nd and Clay streets in Jack London Square. According to the story, the larger new space, set to open in November, would have the same vegetarian eats plus an expanded menu including pizza and full entrees. The current smaller space, meanwhile, will remain open as “wine-and-beer bar with a limited menu of small bites.”
► All kinds of food news in Berkeleyside’s Shop Talk, including…
• Amadus, a new café-grill taking over the former Meridian space at 2050 University Ave this summer.
• A new branch of the Sandwich Shop taking over the old Gelateria Naia space at 2106 Shattuck Ave. in late July. In addition to sandwiches, there will be a full espresso bar and cold press juicing station.
• Brazil Café is replacing Brasa, Chris and Veronica Laramie’s Peruvian rotisserie chicken spot on University Ave on August 1.
And finally, a couple food events…
► This Sunday, June 30, Outstanding in the Field is hosting an all-vegetarian meal at Knoll Farm in Brentwood with guest chef Leif Hedendal. With a mission to “re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food and introduce them to the local farmers and food artisans,” OITF’s dinners are held outdoors with ingredients sourced from that location, in this case Knoll Farm. It’s $190/person, click here for tickets and info:
► And Stoneridge Street Eats Food Fest is back. Look for a gathering of food trucks organized by the Food Truck Mafia every Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the southeast corner of the Macy's Women's parking lot C. Check Facebook for details and updates.