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Weekly Dish: Zachary's Coming to Pleasant Hill

Popular deep-dish specialists opening downtown, plus Nama Sushi and real-deal Mexican food in Pleasant Hill; details on Rosamunde's new Oakland spot; Local Cafe starts dinner service; cool cooking classes at We Olive; and more in this week's Dish!


Photo by Scotty D. // Yelp.com

Zachary's, the popular Chicago-style deep-dish pizza restaurant with three locations in the East Bay, is coming to Pleasant Hill. As first reported here, according to executive vice president and general manager Leandra Schuler, the new location will occupy the former Red Brick Pizza and Royal Day Spa spaces at 140 Crescent Drive near the Century 16 movie theater. “We feel really excited about it. I think it's just great geographically for us … and we think downtown is a great, great fit.”

Schuler said the all employee-owned restaurant is still working out a couple details, mostly having to do with outdoor patio space, but that they are tentatively looking to open in the late fall.  Look for a similarly straightforward pizza-focused menu at the new location, the first since Zachary’s expanded to San Ramon in 2006.

And in case this has gotten you a little hungry, all three Zachary's locations are currently hosting food drives for local food banks, so make sure to bring some nonperishables to drop off before you pick up your deep-dish pie. CLICK HERE for details.

That’s not all that’s happening in little Pleasant Hill. Also downtown, Nama, the sushi restaurant with a busy location in Walnut Creek, is opening a fifth restaurant in the former Monsoon Masala space. Look for the same Ocean-fresh sushi and Japanese fare, along with some new Korean specialties including bibimbap and spicy stone-pot tofu dishes (owner Jae Shin’s mother was a chef at a Korean barbecue restaurant in Monterey so he knows what he’s doing). The Lafayette resident says he is hoping to open the new Nama by early July with the same casual, comfortable atmosphere that’s made his Walnut Creek spot so successful.

Photo by Chris R. // Yelp.comPleasant Hill-ites also have an interesting new Mexican spot to check out with the opening of El Aguila Taqueria at 1300 Contra Costa Boulevard. Not your every day taqueria, El Aquila specializes in serving authentic Mexican using top-quality ingredients, including local produce, organic chicken and beef, and all-natural pork. Chef and co-owner Oscar Patlan brings a background cooking at high-end restaurants, and offers some unusual specials on the menu, such as cochinita en adobo (marinated, roasted suckling pig), chicken with mole roja, homemade chorizo, and tomales made with fresh maza, organic chicken, and a sweet Oaxacan-style mole negro. 1300 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill, (925) 682-4444, elaquilataqueria.com.

And hey don’t forget about In-n-Out, which should be opening at 570 Contra Costa Blvd any day now according to a company spokesman.

So after weeks of persistent (some might say harassing) calls, I finally got a hold of Rosamunde’s Josh Margolis. The owner of two über-popular Sausage Grilles in San Francisco gave me some details about his planned new East Bay location, which he confirmed would be coming to Old Oakland, likely by July. It’ll be in Swan’s Marketplace, taking the place of the recently shuttered Suruki’s Japanese restaurant at 911 Washington Street. Margolis is planning a similar sausage- and beer-centric menu, with a couple of nice local twists, including cooking up Taylor’s Sausages, which are made and sold right next door, and likely offering wine by local winery Periscope Cellars, which also just opened a kiosk at Swan’s. For those counting, the new 510 Rosamunde should have around 18 regular sausages, plus three to four rotating specials, and Margolis is hoping to have no less than 12 (and as many as 24) craft beers on tap. It’ll be open lunch and dinner, seven days a week.

Rosamunde joins the recently opened District wine bar, plus an as-of-yet unnamed restaurant coming next door on Washington Street, in a suddenly rejuvenated Old Oakland nightlife scene. And for those Jonesing for a taste of Rosamunde’s, look for their sausages every Saturday this summer at the new pop-up beer garden in the front lot of Classic Cars West on 26th Street in Uptown (from 2 p.m. until sundown). Nice…

Some tasty tid-bits...

Photo by Cindy ChewSpoke with Derreck Johnson, who told me he wants to open new locations of his Home of Chicken and Waffles and is close to signing deals in Emeryville and Daly City. He's also eyeing Concord, Antioch, Union City, and San Jose: "I'm looking to expand all over the Bay Area."

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue, with roughly a kagillion locations scattered across the West Coast, has signed on to fill the shuttered El Balazo space at 5331 Hopyard Road in Pleasanton.

Similarly-themed Lava Pit Fire Grill closed in Lafayette and will be replaced at 3647 Mt. Diablo Blvd. by Kabob Burger. You can still get your fix of Kalua pork, BBQ short ribs, and Katsu chicken at Lava Pit's original location in Orinda's Theatre Square.

Speaking of which, it's Kabob Monday all this month at Camino in Oakland, which is offering a three-course meal featuring kebob cooked in the restaurant's open fireplace.

Martini Sky (formerly Patrick David's) is officially open in Danville: an International selection of small plates and more than 50 variations of custom martinis await...

Per Patch, San Ramon’s ShBoom Nightclub has added dueling piano bars to its schedule on the second and fourth Thursdays this month, giving Danville's That Bar a little competition in that department. So wait: does this mean the East Bay now has dueling dueling pianos? (insert drum roll / cymbal crash here)

Caramel truffles by Sixth CoursePer East Bay Dish, Pop Up Foods, a pop-up gourmet market inspired by the now-shuttered Pop up General Store, will make its debut this Saturday at Pizzaiolo. CLICK HERE to order your boudin blanc, caramel truffles, organic durum semolina pasta...

Oh so many foodie events happening around town including Simply Delicious Danville, Spice of Wine (featuring the very cool Oaktown Spice Shop), a Culinary Clash for a good cause in Pinole, and Ghiradelli Square's Uncorked wine festival: CLICK HERE for all the details.

Cypress is starting a four-course prix fixe menu for $48 on Sunday and Monday nights starting this Sunday, May 20. This week's menu?
Frissee & asparagus salad with pickled onions, hen eggs, pea sprouts with honey-lime vinaigrette
Herb roasted chicken with parsnip puree, broccoli rabe, roasted fingerling potatoes, pan au jus
Manchego cheese with roasted grapes, honey comb, vine fruit
Cherry tart - white chocolate mousse with Pinot marinated cherries

Ah, the life of a food editor... I have a chance to check out a lot of food-related events in the course of my travels (tough gig, I know). Here are a couple of cool things I've been to that I wanted to pass along.

Cooking Classes at We Olive

All We Olive photos by Ethan FletcherI’ll admit: I was a little skeptical about cooking classes at We Olive in downtown Walnut Creek. Was this just going to be a thinly veiled excuse to sell me jugs of local olive oil? And yes it’s true, all the dishes were prepared with olive oil (conveniently available for purchase at the store), but that wasn’t the heart of the class. The heart of the class was instructor Lauren Mahlke (pictured at left), a “culinary advisor” to We Olive who owns her own catering company, Olive to Eat Catering. I’ve taken cooking classes before with mixed results: it can be a little hectic and intimidating and instructors can, honestly, be a little full of themselves. The nice thing about these twice-monthly classes, is the mellow vibe: around 15 or so people lined up at We Olive’s long olive oil bar after the store is closed for business in the evening. And essential to that fun, relaxed atmosphere is Mahlke, who brings an obvious passion for cooking combined with a teacher's gift for imparting practical tips and advice geared for the home chef. Her interesting take on knives: “I never spend more than $30 on one, because I spend all my money having them sharpened.” (she highly recommends having your knives sharpened every 6-9 months).

Anyway, as I said, the class was fun, relaxed, helpful, and best of all, tasty. I attended April’s "Entertain in Spain" class, in which Mahlke prepared simple, tapas-style dishes such as gorgeously colorful peppers sautéed with a robust, grassy Arbequina Extra-virgin olive oil, roasted fingerling potatoes with zesty mojo verde or richer, earthier mojo roja sauces (both of which you can prepare ahead of time for parties), and surprisingly excellent rosemary shortbread cookies made with EVOO instead of butter.

Check out a class if you get a chance, they’re held every second and fourth Wednesday evenings and rotate monthly. May’s theme: “Pickling, Preserving and Curing,” with the next class on the 23rd. CLICK HERE for all the details. 1364 N. Main St., 
Walnut Creek, (
925) 280-4574, walnutcreek.weolive.com.

LOCAL CAFE: Starting dinner service with a bang ...

All Local Cafe photos by Cindy ChewHad a chance to attend a media preview for the very cute Local Café on Piedmont Ave in Oakland. Started by Piedmont-resident and first-time restaurateur Megan Burke last year, Local has built up some neighborhood buzz with its daytime menu (the eggs Benedict and breakfast biscuits are fantastic for weekend brunch), and starting May 19, they’ll be offering dinner service two nights a week on Saturday and Sunday.

Judging by my meal, it's well worth an evening visit: The little gem salad with apples, walnuts, and Black River blue cheese was garden-fresh, the pan-seared halibut shined with a subtle fava puree, and the Zuni-inspired chicken under-a-brick with pine nut panzanella was a treat (all paired with excellent wines from Oakland's Urban Legend Winery).

Burke told me that her favorite restaurants are simple, ingredient-driven spots such as Pizzaiolo and Summer Kitchen Bakeshop, and that classic California approach shined through with a big help from chef Jhon Gomez (pictured at right), who brings cooking experience from Oakland favorites A Coté and Oliveto. And especially for the prices—entrees are mostly in the low to mid-teens—the food should be a real steal. Look for that half chicken, seasonal salads, and a fish of the day, plus dishes such as baked penne with beef and pork meatballs ($13) and a flat iron steak ($16). And definitely check 'em out for brunch if you’re in the area: they’re right next to Adesso. 4395 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, (510) 922-8249, localcafe.net.


Saturday May 19: Spice of Wine
Taste handcrafted wines from Eno Wines and Lusu Cellars paired with Oaktown Spice Shop spice blends from all around the world. You'll get to meet the winemakers and spice blenders, and try two new wine releases, as well as sample some specially selected cheese and bread.
$5 in advance, $10 at the door, 5:30-8 p.m. At Eno Wines, 805 Camelia St., Berkeley, spiceofwine.eventbrite.com

Saturday, May 19: Ghirardelli Square Uncorked! Wine Festival
Ghiradelli Square partners with local non-profit Save the Bay for the 7th annual Uncorked festival featuring a full day of wine tastings, food offerings from great local chefs and restaurants, wine seminars, and live musical entertainment at one of San Francisco's most picturesque locations.
$50, 1-6 p.m., Ghiradelli Square, ghirardellisquncorkedwinefestival2012.eventbrite.com

Wednesday, May 23: Culinary Clash in Pinole
Four chefs will work with a team of local Pinole officials, community leaders, and entrepreneurs for the bragging rights at Culinary Clash, benefiting Kitchen@812, a nonprofit food business incubator located in downtown Pinole.
$40, 5-8 p.m. at Kitchen@812, 812 San Pablo Avenue, Ste. 2, Pinole. (510) 223-9900, brownpapertickets.com/event/242349.

Saturday, May 26: Simply Delicious Danville
We wrote about Danville's hopping culinary/nightlife scene: now you can experience it for yourself with this culinary walking tour of the city's thriving restaurant scene. That includes tastes at Amber Bistro, Bridges, AuburnJames Tasting Room, Danville Chocolates, Peasant and the Pear, Mangia Mi, Sideboard, Junebug Bakery, Incontro and the Danville Farmers Market. CLICK HERE for the details.
$48, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., downtown Danville, simplydeliciousdanville.eventbrite.com