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Weekly Dish: New Italian in Orinda

Piccolo Napoli coming to Theatre Square; new Vietnamese in Walnut Creek; Mongolian hot pot in Dublin; celebrate sherry in Oakland; and more in this week's Dish!


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I had a chance to talk with Peter Eberle who took over the shuttered Bonfire Pizzeria space in Orinda's Theater Square. Eberle, a longtime Orinda resident who has four teenage children with his wife, Maria, is planning a streamlined Italian concept called Piccolo Napoli (Little Naples), emphasizing family-friendly fare with a focus on thin-crust, Italian-style pizza. What does that mean exactly? "There's a lot of pizza around that tastes more like cheesy bread," Eberle told me. "We've lived in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, and traveled through Italy: the magic is in using a few simple ingredients, but those ingredients have to be fresh and of the highest quality."

Piccolo Napoli will carry around 8–10 pizzas both with (tradizionale) and without tomato sauce (bianche), a few entrees (including Maria's family recipes for eggplant parmesan and spaghetti with housemade meatballs, a half-dozen or so antipasti, and gelato for dessert. Eberle says he hopes to tap into the dining renaissance in Theatre Square sparked by the opening of Table 24 and Barbacoa, as well as Orinda's family-friendly vibe: there will be several kid-friendly options on the menu, including a regular cheese (not Margherita) pizza, and Eberle's high school–aged children will work at Piccolo during summer break. "There will always be someone from the family at the restaurant."

Eberle is planning a June 29 opening date.


Pho Saigon, which replaced Taxi's on Newell Avenue across form Kaiser has changed hands and is now Saigon Vietnamese Bistro. The new owner also runs the popular Huong Tra in Richmond. CLICK HERE to check out the website, which advertises traditional Vietnamese in "eye-popping quantities," including eight kinds of pho and special dishes like shrimp on sugarcane and green mussels in ginger sauce. 1560 Newell Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 296-0777, saigonvietnamesebistro.com.


So goes Grafton Station, so goes the economy? Let's hope so, as the Dublin shopping center has inked another restaurant tenant just a week after announcing that Mezbaan Bar & Indian Grill would be opening in around five months. It'll be another ethnic food option as Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot will take over 4,130 square feet of space according to city officials. Little Sheep, sort of an Asian fondue concept in which you cook your own ingredients in a simmering broth, started in China and now has more than 300 locations worldwide, including restaurants in Cupertino, San Mateo, and Union City. No word yet on a possible opening date.

And per Patch, there's a Black Bear Diner coming to Pleasanton, taking over the ex-Abhiruchi Indian restaurant, a 5,000-square-foot space at 5100 Hopyard Road. According to Patch, franchise owner Celina Gonzales is shooting for a September or October opening.


Popular Rockridge hang Toast announces that its close to completing its expansion into the space next door. On the eve of its second anniversary, Toast Kitchen + Bar will be upping its offerings in addition to upping its square footage: taking advantage of the new, fully equipped kitchen, executive chef Rebecca Boice plans to roll out several new menu items including house made jams, pickles and crackers; grilled items like sustainably sourced king salmon; more pastas; and crispy bites like fritto misti and deep-fried asparagus. Look for fruit granitas and sorbets in the warmer months. The plan is for the newly opened space to serve as a 40-seat main dining room with kitchen, while the current dining room will transition into a dedicated cocktail lounge with full bar and separate bar bites menu.

In case I haven't said it before: Rockridge is hot. In addition to Toast's expansion, the upscale College Ave corridor has seen the opening of Ramen Shop and Trappist Provisions, and as first reported here, Beef and Bourbon, a Latin-inspired family-style restaurant is taking over the former Water Lounge space across from Market Hall. Not to mention the highly anticipated projects Box and Bells (from Commis chef-owner James Syhabout) and the Oakland outpost of San Francisco's beloved A16 should be debuting soon.

Speaking of which, might as well scrape together an opening update on those two restaurants. Box and Bells: at least according to the Facebook page for Italian Colors in Montclair (whose owner is a rarely-reported partner in the Box and Bells project), the restaurant now appears set for a July opening. A16 Rockridge: the Facebook tea leaves are a little more unclear here, but the Oakland branch's Facebook page just went live showing off some tasty looking photos of zeppole (pictured), Italian donuts filled with Dirty Girl Produce strawberry compote, as well as executive chef Rocky Maselli teaching staff how to make hand-made orecchiette—so that has to be a good sign, right? 


Fun event over at Duende. The always-creative Uptown Oakland tapas restaurant is celebrating World Sherry Day all this week through Sunday with free Sherry tastings in the bodega, a special Sherry cocktail menu (and 10% discount on all the retail purchases of three or more bottles), culminating this Sunday with a ten-Sherry tasting for $10 from 3–6 p.m., deals on tapas and Sherry pairings on the menu after 6 p.m., half-off all bottles, and finally a Flamenco performance by Teatro Flamenco at 8 p.m. Whew!

And in Walnut Creek, Prima Ristorante is hosting its annual Pinot Noir Extravaganza dinner, featuring a multi-course dinner paired with wine, and a chance to meet six passionate pinot winemakers. It's happening this Thursday, May 23, starting at 6:30. CLICK HERE for the menu, tickets are $88, call (925) 935-7780 to reserve.


The push to save Berkeley schools' cooking and gardening programs continues: CLICK HERE to see what you can do, including shopping at Whole Foods today and dining out at select restaurants next Thursday


Couple small bites...

Next Tuesday, May 28 is National Burger Day: Esteban Escobar, executive chef of Corners Tavern (home of the decadent $15 burger), is celebrating by creating four new burger specials just for that day. CLICK HERE to check out the options...

Cheap and good soul food is back in style in Oakland according to the East Bay Express, and Easy Creole opened in Berkeley says Tablehopper.

Per Beyond the Creek, Corner Bakery announced a June 3 debut in downtown Pleasant Hill. BTC also notes that small-but-tasty Cake bakery in Lafayette has joined Lottie's in the ice cream float game...


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Prima's Pinot Extravaganza

Reception/Passed Appetizers:
*Black Pepper Foccacia with Brillat Savarin & Apples
*Cucumber Cups Filled with Smoked Trout, Upland Cress & Truffled Aioli
*Grilled Spiedini Of Spiced Pork with Saba
 
Antipasto:
Maine Lobster & Potato Salad with Spring Lettuces
Creamy Lemon – Tarragon Vinaigrette
 
Primo Pinot Piatto:
Agnolotti Filled with English Peas, Speck & Ricotta
Morel Mushrooms in Brown Butter
 
Secondo Piatto:
Salsiccia in Galera:
‘Sausage In Jail’
House Made Sausage with Pine Nuts Incarcerated in Chicken, Roasted with Green Olives & Rosemary
Served with Braised Pancetta Wrapped Frisee
 
Dolce:
Poppy Seed Cake & Organic Strawberries
Crema Inglese
 
*Testarossa ‘Los Gatos Cuvee’ Rose of Pinot Noir
*Freeman Vineyard & Winery ‘Ryo-Fu’ Chardonnay
*****
*Archery Summit, Premier Cuvee, Willamette Valley, Oregon
*Belle Glos, Clark & Telephone Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
*Cherry Pie, Stanly Ranch, Los Carneros
*Feeman Vineyard & Winery, Russian River Valley & ‘Ryo Fu’ Chardonnay
*Robert Sinskey, Los Carneros
*Testarossa, Santa Lucia Highlands & ‘Cuvee Los Gatos’ Rose

Corners Tavern burger specials, May 28

Brisket burger, chile relleno, pickled jalapeno, avocado salsa
Chorizo burger, green garlic aioli, blue cheese, kim chee  
Indian spiced lamb burger, cucumber aioli, mint chutney
Chicken burger, chipotle aioli, pickled slaw

Slider sampler:
each burger $16
slider sampler $20