Weekly Dish: Rodney Worth Takes Napa
Tri-Valley chef taking over Ty-Flo's Rotisserie & Wine; details on AG Ferrari-owner's soon-to-debut Borgo Italiana in Oakland; Italian-Latin concept in Walnut Creek; T-Rex changes hand in Berkeley; free bacon-wrapped hot dogs at Havana; and more!
Looks like Rodney Worth is moving on up. The man behind the budding Tri-Valley dining empire (five and counting after Ferrari's debuted last month in Blackhawk Plaza), has signed a deal to open a new restaurant in downtown Napa. And he's replacing none other than Food Network star Tyler Florence's Rotisserie & Wine, which closed nine months ago for a remodel that never happened. Worth says that the new eatery, loosely named The Pear, will be a Southern/Americana concept with such comfort stapes as chicken and dumplings, gumbo, crawfish, fried chicken & waffles, burgers, and sandwiches (including a French dip) served all day. "It'll still be fine dining, but accessible—it's good ol' country food with some refinement, " says Worth. "Hey, I go up to Napa all the time, and sometimes after all that wine, you just want a burger."
Located in downtown Napa along the city's recently redeveloped riverfront, Worth's new restaurant will have some impressive company: on either side of The Pear is Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto's Morimoto Napa and Lark Creek Restaurant Group's upscale seafood spot Fish Story. It's company Worth is excited to keep.
"This is one of my dreams, I've always wanted to go to Napa, I really love it up there," he says. "All my favorite restaurants are up there, the chefs that I look up to are up there—I just want to be part of community."
Napa-ites can expect a lot of the same touches that his legion of loyal Tri-Valley customers have come to expect, including reasonable prices (from around $12 for a burger to about $31 for prime rib); fun dishes like homemade tater tots and bacon-spiked Belgian waffles and buttermilk Cajun fried chicken with a pear-bourbon maple syrup; and a fun vibe—he's planning Fat Tuesday specials every week and eventually a New Orleans-style Sunday jazz brunch. Expect a quick turnaround—Worth hopes to open by the end of the year and as soon as early November—as the less-then-two-year-old restaurant comes ready to go and fully equipped. That includes one fortuitous stroke of luck involving the dishware: they're already monogrammed "RW" for Rotisserie & Wine. "Now it stands for Rodney Worth," he laughs.
After a few delays, Paul Ferrari's new Italian restaurant in Old Oakland is finally ready to debut this coming Tuesday, September 18, and the AG Ferrari-owner gave me some details on his first-ever restaurant project. In a sense, Ferrari, who travels through Italy constantly as part of his Bay Area-based Italian food imports business, has been training for this his whole life. Borgo Italia Cucina Casalinga, says Ferrari, is very much modeled on the kinds of simple, casual, country-style restaurants that Ferrari prefers to dine at while on the road.
"It's really comfort food, the kind of stuff that I like to eat when I’m traveling in Italy," he says. "The term "cucina casalinga" translates to homemade food, the sort of food that you find in osterias—simple cuisine made with really good ingredients. It's the kind of place that people should feel comfortable going to, it's not for special occasions, but somewhere where you can hang out and eat good food that’s not too pretentious."
Ferrari, however, will not be running the kitchen. That job will fall to two Italian imports Franco Camboli, a master Italian pastry chef who will be the executive chef, and GM Fabio Dalle Vacche, who with his mother ran a legendary longtime restaurant in Borgotaro near Parma in Italy where the original Ferraris hailed from. The new Oakland eatery's interior is actually filled with several tables, chairs, and decoration imported from that Italian restaurant (which opened in the 1940s). Another Italian import is Dalle Vacche's mother, Luigina, who cooked at the Borgotaro restaurant for 53 years and will be on hand for a few months to make sure Borgo's food is up to snuff.
The restaurant will be open all day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., serving baked-in-house Italian pastries, coffee, juice, and macedonia fruit salad for breakfast (no eggs, not typically Italian). Lunch and dinner? Expect authentic wood-fired Neapolitan-style thin crust pizza, made-from-scratch pasta, an all-Italian wine list, and some unique country Italian specials like farinata, a kind of oven-baked chickpea pie common in Liguria. CLICK HERE for a more detailed list of dinner options available—sounds tasty...
Borgo Italia, 499 9th Street, (510) 251-1008, borgoitaliaoakland.com.
More details on the new restaurant taking over the long-vacant Chili's in downtown Walnut Creek... I finally got a hold of owner Hugo Boye (he'd been busy rustling up liquor licenses and whatnot...), and the former Caffe delle Stelle proprietor gave me the scoop on his new place, tentatively called Estelle Bistro. It will not be another iteration of the all-Italian Caffe Delle Stelle, but rather it'll be a fusion of Italian and Latin American, and in particular South American, cuisine, which reflects Boye's own history—he was born in Italy but raised in Chile. Expect a big International wine list for Estelle, which Boye hopes to debut by the end of the year, and as soon as mid-November.
A big congratulations to perennial hot spot Havana, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary of providing a little taste of Cuba to downtown Walnut Creek. The Scotts (Joelle and Zach) are celebrating with some weekly specials over the next month, including offering a free bacon-wrapped Kobe Beef hot dog all this week (with purchase of a sandwich or entrée). Next week it's a complimentary Virgin Mojito (following two weeks are TBD). Congrats again, and check 'em out if you're in the area... 1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555, havanarestaurant.net.
Berkeley restaurateurs Haig and Cindy Krikorian have sold off one of their restaurants, T-Rex BBQ (first reported in SFGate). The Gilman Ave spot was taken over by Tom Dashiell, the Krikorian's longtime counsel for their K2 restaurant group, as well as Matt Sturm, who co-owns Fly Bar and Solstice in San Francisco and also briefly helped run Big Nate's BBQ in the city. There will be no major changes, according to Dashiell, who said they'd be giving the seven-year-old restaurant a "little facelift," as well as working to improve on consistency, quality, and outreach to the community, particularly those hungry-hungry Cal students.
Dashiell said that the Krikorians were looking to "reduce their inventory of restaurants," and rumor is, T-Rex may not be the only one they sell off. K2's holding still include Lalime, Fonda, Paisan, and Sea Salt, and records indicate that in at least Sea Salt's case, the Krikorians canceled that restaurant's alcohol license, which could signal another sale...
Denise Vicker's former Walnut Creek Baking Company is officially back up and running under new ownership. The property's landlord Patrick Ellwood completed the purchase last week and the bakery reopened on Friday with Ellwood's wife, Denise, now running the show with help from lead baker Tim Rosalez. Denise says the shop will be almost exactly the same barring the name—which will be changed "Bake!" within the next couple weeks. "Pretty much what we want to do is keep it what it has been: that's what the customer wanted and what the community wanted," Denise Ellwood said. "We have the same bakers, several of the same retail people, the same hours, and the recipes are all the same. Everything is still hand-made using real ingredients and we want to keep it that way."
Hey! Lafayette Art & Wine Festival this weekend! Check it out, it's a good time and... it's completely free to get in. CLICK HERE for all the info, and below are some fun facts to keep in mind...
-- More than 275 fine arts and crafts booths.
-- Restaurants, food vendors, wineries and microbreweries, (including a new Food Truck Alley with several hip mobile eatery options)
-- Continuous musical entertainment presented on three stages.
-- Kids area with entertainment and activities for kids of all ages.
-- Special exhibit and sale of work by local artists.
16th annual Lafayette Art & Wine Festival, downtown Lafayette, Saturday, September 15, 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sunday, September 16, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. lafayettechamber.org/events/art-wine-festival/
Don't forget about the 5th annul Orinda Restaurant Tour happening this coming Tuesday, September 18. A mere $40 gets you admission and unlimited tastes form a host of great restaurants including Turquoise Mediterranean Grill, Shelby's, Barbacoa, Table 24, and Bonfire Pizzeria, plus free 10 minute massages, culinary exhibition by a local master chef, art exhibit featuring 30 local artists, and live music and dancing. CLICK HERE for all the details.
Man-walking-about-town, Beyond the Creek, notes that Fraedo's Cafe is coming to Grower's Square across from the Lesher Center.
Get pumped for tomatoes: Oliveto's 22nd annual Tomato Dinners are happening next Tuesday, September 18 through Friday, September 21. What to expect? Well, the Rockridge restaurant's crack team of chefs will be picking out the "most exceptional tomatoes and, based on flavor, shape, size, color, texture, and acidity, devise a use for each to best exemplify the tomato’s characteristics." Yeah! CLICK HERE for details and to reserve a spot... 5655 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-5356, oliveto.com.
Vegan alert! There's a Vegan Dishcrawl next Tuesday, September 18th in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto. It's like a pub crawl, but for food... and it's vegan... Tickets are $39 and you'll visit four restaurants: CLICK HERE for deets and tickets (only 8 left!).
Tamarindo has a special dinner planned for this Sunday to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. Lauded Mexican chef Angel Vasquez from the city of Pueblo will guest chef and prepare a five-course prix fixe dinner that includes wine pairings from Ceja Vineyards. Dishes include Fried Huitlacoche Ravioli, Epazote Consommé, Chile en Nogada, and Cremita poblana. Tickets are $110/per, CLICK HERE for details to reserve a spot. 468 8th St., Oakland, (510) 444-1944, tamarindoantojeria.com.
Third annual Oakland Block Party is happening this Saturday, September 15 from 5 to 8 p.m., and there are some great restaurants and bars participating including Ozumo, Lukas Taproom, Pican, ERA Art Bar, Plum Bar, Hawker Fare, Make Westing, and Somar Bar. Proceeds go to Oakland public schools so check it out! CLICK HERE for details on tickets.
Saul's Deli in Berkeley is offering both a special dinner and take-home meals this weekend for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. CLICK HERE for details and to order.
Local chef Sean Canavan from Walnut Creek's Tender Greens’ will be one of five Bay Area chefs preparing a cool-sounding five-course meal at Petaluma's Fallon Hills Ranch with ingredients sourced straight from the farm. It's happening this Sunday, September 16 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. You can also enjoy a ranch tour while eating appetizers, sipping wine, and checking out a butchering demonstration by Chef Canavan. Tickets are $150, contact Fallon Hills' Kevin Maloney to reserve a spot at (707) 775-7708.
Antipasti and primi such as Torta Fritta Emiliana (puffy fried dough with salumi), Gnocchi alla Ligure (potato gnocchi with basil pesto), Tagliatelle di Castagne (chestnut flour tagliatelle, Speck, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese) and Tortelli alla Parmigiana (ricotta, Swiss chard, sage and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese-filled tortelli). Among the secondi will be Zuppa di Pesce (clams, mussels, squid, shrimp, tomato, onion, garlic and peperoncino), Involtini Gina con Peperonata (sautéed veal medallions and stewed peppers), Brasato di Manzo (red wine braised beef and vegetables), and Spezzatino (veal stew with white wine and tomato). For dessert, diners can enjoy Millefoglie (flaky layered puff pastry with cream), Ciambella Latte Miele (pastry with milk and honey) and Panna Cotta.