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Weekly Dish: Patxis Pizza Expanding in East Bay?

More gourmet deep dish could be in store for Tri-Valley; a sneak peek at Neiman Marcus Cafe; Le Cheval reopens in Old Oakland; a shout-out for Piatti; and more in this week's Dish!


East Bay thick crust pizza-lovers could be in luck: Chicago-style specialists Patxis is looking to expand its presence in the area soon. Co-owner Bill Freeman says that he is eying two separate locations in Danville and Livermore and could be ready to sign leases in a matter of months. We wrote about Freeman and his business partner Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz last year when they opened their über-popular Lafayette store, their first East Bay location. Since debuting in San Francisco in 2005, they have been going gangbusters: they now operate seven Patxis and hope to double that number in the next two years, including a new restaurant as far away as Denver. And it's no accident Patxis is expanding: they combine a well-loved formula, deep dish pizza, with quality, often local, ingredients. They support local schools (check out their ongoing "52 Weeks" fundraising effort), and tailor each location to the neighborhood they're in: these aren't cookie-cutter Pizza Huts we're talking about. And their pizza is pretty excellent too, so they've got that going for them... patxispizza.com

PanCoast Pizza opened in Walnut Creek last week, and no, they don't serve thick-crust "pan" pizza. The owner is from Philadelphia and is modeling his new place off of the Northeast's ubiquitous pizza shops, meaning thin-crust, East Coast-style pizza along with a few "hoagie" sandwiches. So what's up with the pizzeria's moniker? The owner 's name is...Robert Pancoast. Go figure... 1516 S Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 954-1178, pancoastpizza.com.NM Cafe

Fashionistas are well aware that Neiman Marcus's Walnut Creek location is opening on Friday. Well, the Dish is more concerned with the food and we got a little sneak peek at the menu for the new NM Cafe. Speaking of non-cookie cutter, Neiman's cafes all feature menus that are seasonal, source many ingredients locally, and which are unique to the location where they're located. So what's in store for Walnut Creek? Here are a few dishes that should recharge your shopping batteries...

LOBSTER CHOWDER with yukon gold potatoes, otc oyster crackers.
WALNUT CREEK SALAD with marinated chicken, asian pear, blue cheese, grapes, candied walnuts, dried cherries, greens, light balsamic vinaigrette.
SEAFOOD LOUIE with dungeness crab, shrimp, little gem lettuce, egg, avocado, tomato, cucumber, louie dressing.

Meritage's Josh Thomsen (left) with Gather's Sean BakerChecked out the Berkeley Wine Festival opening celebration on Friday at the Claremont Hotel Club & Spa and had a great time. It's in its third year and it has been cool to see how much the festival has grown—this year, the celebration spread from just the hotel's event room out into the neighboring Meritage restaurant and featured food from more than ten local restaurants and more than 45 wines from vineyards across the state. Central to its success I think is the Claremont and Meritage's indefatigable executive chef Josh Thomsen (pictured with Gather chef Sean Baker), whose boundless enthusiasm and energy has helped recruit Berkeley's finest chefs (of which there are many) to the event each year. And that's not to mention the great wineries involved: so if you missed the opening gala, make sure to check out one of the eight wine dinners planned with unique wineries every Wednesday over the next two months starting tonight (March 7). Thomsen will pair a four-course dinner with wines from Hirsch Vineyards on the Sonoma coast. Looks like a great menu (Sonoma duckling meatballs, cedar planked Eden Farms pork), tickets are $125, CLICK HERE for info on all the upcoming dinners... berkeleywinefestival.com.

Patxis isn't the only East Bay pizzeria doing well. Bonfire Pizzeria in Orinda's Theatre Square is celebrating one year in business by introducing several new pastas (like the spaghetti and meatballs pictured) and flat-breads to its menu, according to owner Adam Sall. And next week, they should be rolling out Gluten-free and whole wheat crust options as well. We're fans of this little eatery's thin-crust pizzas, so the new items should be worth checking out. 2 Theatre Square,  Orinda Theatre Square, Orinda, (925) 253-1225, bonfirepizzeria.com.

I spoke with Table 24 co-owner Michael Karp, and he said he was still hoping to open his Barbacoa Mexican restaurant in the back of Theatre Square by Cinco de Mayo but that could be delayed. Rumor is they've signed on a new chef with a pretty cool Bay Area restaurant pedigree, so stay tuned for details on that...

A little update on Blue Gingko, Sasa, and Roti-8-owner Philip Yang's newest venture, Blue Gingko at Blackhawk Plaza. Yang said construction would likely start this week and he was hoping to open up the new Japanese eatery in about four months, meaning he's shooting for a late-Summer opening. The new restaurant should fall somewhere in between the more casual Blue Gingko in Lafayette and Yang's more upscale Sasa in Walnut Creek in terms of food and vibe. Yang also said that he's hoping to really emphasize the new Blackhawk Plaza eatery's outdoor back patio, including having a sort of beer garden with beers on tap and a robata grill during the warm summer months.

Telegraph's specialty is, you guessed it, sausage...Speaking of beer garden, that's exactly what's been created at the new Telegraph (that's their evocative sign pictured at left...), which replaced Mama Buzz on Telegraph Avenue in Uptown Oakland a few weeks ago. Former Nex and Mua executive chef John Mardikian took over the space and has cleaned it up a bit, adding said outdoor beer garden along with a menu highlighted by six housemade sausages ranging from Bahn Mi (coconut green curry pork with paté, cilantro, pickled carrots) to Whiskey Fennel to Wild Boar & Pear. There was a bit of a controversy about Mardikian taking over the beloved Mama Buzz, but from what I could tell when I visited, he did a pretty nice job bringing in his own vision while staying true to its artsy origins. 2318 Telegraph Ave.,Oakland, (510) 444-8353, Telegraphoakland.com.

Nex, meanwhile, has since closed and Mua's next-door fine dining arm has been replaced by... Mua. For now, the space will serve as additional dining room space for the Uptown restaurant/bar/club/art space (it's now open for lunch as well). 2442 Webster St., Oakland, (510) 238-1100, muaoakland.com.

Residual SugarAlso debuting new lunch hours is Residual Sugar. The popular Walnut Creek wine bar will debut for lunch Mon.Fri with an expanded menu starting on April 2. 1684 Locust St., Walnut Creek, residualsugarwine.com.

Back in Oakland, Le Cheval has since reopened in its original location at 1017 Clay Street. As first reported by the Dish, Le Cheval is making its triumphant return after having been forced out by the building's previous landlord (who has since departed). The Le Cheval family's LCX, which they opened a few doors down after closing Le Cheval, will now be transformed into more of a wine bar concept.

Looks like San Ramon and Pleasanton will be getting new grocery stores courtesy of WalMart. According to the CC Times, the retailer behemoth is planning "Neighborhood Market" grocery stores at the shuttered Nob Hill Market in Pleasanton and the Country Club Village Shopping Center in San Ramon, in addition to two other stores in San Jose and Hayward. CLICK HERE for all the details...

The opening of Sauced BBQ & Spirits, they of the cool logo (pictured left), will be delayed a bit. According to co-owner Barrett Gomes, the southern-style barbecue joint planned for Livermore's First Street likely won't debut until mid-April. They do, however, have their menu finalized and it looks pretty cool. CLICK HERE to check it out, but a few interesting items I saw were Hand Grenades (housemade jalapeño poppers stuffed with pulled pork and cream cheese), Fried Pickles and Peppers, and Rednexican nachos (pulled pork with poblano queso, black beans, smoked corn, jalapeño, and pico de gallo with "tin roof" sauce). Those are in addition to sandwiches and, of course, barbecue served in several different styles (North Carolina, Texas, Georgia).


Yes, Piatti. Maybe it was the reporting I've done on The Corners Tavern, a joint project by Piatti's parent restaurant group Moana and SF-based Stock & Bones, that made me think of revisiting this Danville standby. Or maybe it was the conversation I had with my colleague, who lives in Danville, and who instantly replied "Piatti" when I asked her what her favorite local restaurant was. It's funny, probably because it's been there for so long producing high-quality food, I sometimes forget about Piatti. So, I swung by there for lunch the other day...

I had a really nice meal, including a fresh mixed-greens salad and a wonderful spinach and cheese ravioli dish, delicately prepared with a nice, light lemon cream sauce with citrus gremolata--not to mention bread with that great, free dipping sauce on the side. The lofty interior was light and airy as always, and after a recent renovation, the restaurant features a dedicated bar area with its own bar menu including pizzetas and small antipasti such as meatball sliders ($6), Gamberi shrimp ($11) and calamari ($9). They also have a happy hour with $6 wines and $5 pizzetas from 3 to 6:30 p.m. Good stuff... 100 Sycamore Valley Road West, Danville, (925) 838-2082, piatti.com.


FOODIE EVENTS! (compiled by our excellent intern Janet Li)

March 7: Tuscan Dinner at Prima
Spend “An Evening In Chianti With Fattoria Felsina,” owner of the iconic Tuscan winery Fattoria Felsina in Castelnuovo Berardegna, as Prima Ristorante’s Peter Chastain creates a classic Tuscan menu to pair with the wines.
1522 N. Main Street, Walnut Creek, (925) 935-7780, primaristorante.com

March 8: Savoie Wine Dinner at Camino
Enjoy snacks, taste rose, and savor a three-course menu featuring food and wine of the Savoie.
Camino, 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, 6:30 p.m., $100- $120 plus tips and tax, (510) 547-5035, caminorestaurant.com. Please confirm availability.

March 8: Quiche and Crème Brulee: sweet and savory custards
Master your cooking skills at this hands-on class. Learn how to make Almond Orange Pot de Cremes and Creme Brulees, among other recipes.
Kitchen on Fire, 2940 7th Street, Berkeley, 6:30 p.m.- 9:30 p.m., $70, (510) 548-COOK (2665), kitchenonfire.com. Confirm availability and location.

March 9: Wine & Cheese Pairing and Tasting
Expand your knowledge of cheese and wine at this hands-on workshop at the Lafayette Community Center, which includes a tasting, take-home materials, and two hours of instruction.
6:30 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Lafayette Community Center, 500 St Marys Rd., Lafayette, lafayetterec.org.

March 11: Sushi, Sake & More
Join Oakland Fukuoka Sister City Association’s 50th anniversary fund-raiser.  Enjoy delicacies at food and beverage stations, bid on silent auction items, and enjoy traditional entertainments. A portion of the profits will be donated to Northern Japan Earthquake Relief and Recovery.
Sequoyah Country Club, 4550 Heafey Road, Oakland, 5-7:30 p.m., $50 per person ($60 at the door), oakland-fukuoka.org. Dress code: Resort casual – no denim.

March 11: Marmalade Making 101
Learn how to cook four marmalades, two versions each of two different seasonal flavors. This introductory class starts with a marmalade tasting and discussion, then proceeds to the cooking process. Tea, snacks, and homemade sweets will be provided. Space is limited. 
Blue Chair Fruit Company, 4629 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland, 5 -9 p.m., $195, (510) 654-2583, bluechairfruit.com.

March 13: Prospect 772 Winemaker Dinner at Toast
Just $45 gets you a three-course meal (including Duck Prosciutto over Delta Asparagus & Chicories with Fig Vinaigrette and Braised Short Rib with Creamy Polenta & Gremolata) paired with selections from the East Bay urban winemakers at Prospect 772.
5900 College Ave., Oakland, toastwinelounge.com. $45 per person, excludes tax & gratuity. CLICK HERE for more info.

We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, you should always call ahead to confirm dates, times, locations, and other information.