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I Hear You

Oliveto’s new acoustics clearly keep the focus on diners’ conversations.


Photos by Cesar Rubio


You’ve secured a reservation, navigated the menu, and gambled on a wine from the daunting list. You lean in close to your partner, closer and closer ... and you still can’t hear a damn thing he or she says.

Not so at Oliveto.

Deep into its third decade, Oliveto is once again ahead of its time, installing a high-tech sound system that both absorbs and re-directs ambient noise to allow for easy conversation in a dining room that’s known for its buzz.

It’s all part of owners Bob and Maggie Klein’s philosophy of creating a dining experience that is both communal and intimate. The menu, staff, and decor—no matter how extraordinary—are in the service of a common goal: connecting one diner to another.

“Whether it’s a large party or a deuce, the best times at Oliveto are had when the conversation flows,” says Bob. “Then, you’re not overly aware of the atmosphere and the food. It’s all one piece.”

This is especially true on Valentine’s Day, when it’s easy to become anxious and exceedingly conscious of the details, causing each element to become a distraction.

“What if you could just be there and talk to the person?” asks Bob.

Integrated with Oliveto’s pioneering sound system (custom developed by Berkeley-based Meyer Sound, which also does sound for Cirque du Soleil productions) is the restaurant’s first major renovation in 18 years. Giant baffling panels printed with images of a century-old local olive grove and a stately oak from Wildcat Canyon Park create a sense of place that further encourages diners to stay in the moment.

“City folk don’t know where they are,” Bob says lightheartedly, calling the renovated upstairs space, with its power to quiet the critic and orient the unconscious mind, “a magic room.” (the casual café is downstairs.)

Perhaps, but there’s a practical principle behind Oliveto’s good vibrations: No matter where you’re dining, pay attention to your partner. The rest is just background noise.

5655 College Ave., Oakland, (510) 547-5356, oliveto.com

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