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Diablo Dish: Catching Up With the Classic Prima Ristorante

Chef and co-owner Peter Chastain dishes on the Walnut Creek institution; plus, Wild Magnolia opens in Orinda, and celebrate with Cleophus Quealy and Canasta Kitchen on Saturday.


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Prima Ristorante

Walnut Creek’s food scene just keeps getting hotter with hip newbies like Telefèric Barcelona and Rooftop Restaurant and Bar. But longtime Italian restaurant Prima Ristorante continues to be one of the scene’s top dogs. Dish talked to executive chef and co-owner Peter Chastain about why he loves cooking Italian fare.

 

Peter Chastain

Q: You’ve been cooking Italian food for a long time. Do you ever get the urge to go down the street to Opa or whip up some Greek dishes?
A: (Laughter) I love cooking Italian food every day.

Q: Why Italian?
A:
A simple cuisine is better, and Italian [food] framed the cooking for me. It kept my feet on the ground. And Italian cuisine is the mother of Western cuisine. It started during the Renaissance with the Medicis, and when Catherine de Medici married the French king, she brought the cuisine to France.

Q: Some chefs pride themselves on mixing and matching from all over the world and creating new dishes. Does that hold much attraction for you?
A:
I always felt the California food scene was moving in too eclectic a direction—I like to be a steward for the food. As my grandfather used to say, “God gave us food; the Devil gave us cooks.”

This weekend, Prima is hosting its 29th annual Champagne Extravaganza. Sommelier Frank Rothstein will prepare flights of champagnes from 2 to 4 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, so attendees can sample a variety of styles. The cost is $138, which includes 14 champagnes as well as antipasti and other bubble-friendly munchies.

 

Wild Magnolia is Already in Bloom

In a speedy turnaround—at least by restaurant standards—Table 24 in Orinda Theatre Square has been transformed into Wild Magnolia in just a matter of weeks. The restaurant opened last night for its first customers.

The emphasis is on small plates and healthy, sustainable menu items. Congrats to owner Michael Karp for making the transformation happen so quickly...

 

Cleophus Quealy Beer Company

Celebrate Cleophus Beer in San Leandro

It’s a great combination: craft beers, Mexican food by Canasta Kitchen, and live bluegrass music—plus you can bring your dog.

You can partake in all of that on Saturday in San Leandro, as Cleophus Quealy Beer Company celebrates its second anniversary from 12 to 9 p.m. Cleophus Quealy specializes in small-batch beers, ranging from tart fruit sours to barrel-aged Belgians—and on Saturday, the anniversary tap list will include two favorites: Quadrupel and Sweet Henrietta.

Quadrupel is a rich Belgian-style, barrel-aged brew with orange peel and vanilla, while Sweet Henrietta is a coffee milk stout featuring cold-pressed coffee from local spots like Zocalo Coffeehouse.

 


Got Dish? Send an email to dish@maildiablo.com. Or follow me on Twitter @DiabloDish.