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Diablo Dish -- July 2011

New places to grab a delightful lunch are opening left and right, and Livermore gets nuevo Mexican this fall. All that and more in the Dish!


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Pleasanton’s Farmer Restaurant has closed and will be replaced by—what else—a gastropub. Joining the ever-expanding ranks of beer-centric eateries around the East Bay, the owners of Handles on Main hope to open their upscale brew house by mid-August. According to David Ritterbush, one of four co-owners and lifelong friends, Handles will serve “seasonally driven comfort food” to go along with 30 local craft beers on tap plus 16 local wines on tap. Co-owner-chef Brian Hampton will “tap” into his culinary experience at the Restaurant at Wente, and most recently, Concord’s E.J. Phair, to offer a seasonal menu of suped-up favorites such as all-natural beef burgers, meat loaf, and sustainable fish and chips. The full bar remains, but expect an emphasis on suds that will include beer-maker dinners and beer-pairing recommendations on the menu.

Livermore is getting a muy authentic Mexican restaurant come this fall. Co-owner Juan Delgadillo runs a string of successful restaurants in Mexico, including the popular El Sacromonte in Guadalajara, for which the Livermore restaurant takes its name and menu. Located in a historic building on First Street, El Sacromonte won’t be your typical tacos and burritos joint, says publicist Jennifer Barba. What will it be? Barba describes the fare as Mexican-Spanish fusion and “like something you’d find in the movie Like Water for Chocolate.” Entrées include quesadillas made with queso fresco, strawberry aioli, and rose petal sauce, and a shrimp tostadas dish described on the menu as having “magic aromas to search for love.” Que romántico… 

Dublin’s string of interesting new eateries (Coco Cabana, Cellar 9, Johnny Garlic’s) continues with Vito’s Express, a new pizza joint that will feature some quirky options such as breakfast, dessert, and salad pies to go, along with a more traditional menu of New York–style pizza. Shooting for a late-summer opening, Vito’s will sport a bar (beer and wine only) as well as two 1965-era Vespa scooters inside its Grafton Station restaurant. Pleasanton co-owners (and next-door neighbors) Scott Bolin and Benny Di Giallorenzo hope to open six Vito’s around the Tri-Valley.

Cheap lunch lovers have reason to celebrate the opening of a score of soup, salad, and sandwich spots. SF–based Specialty’s is opening its second East Bay location near the Stoneridge Shopping Center; Panera Bread opened another 925 location in Crow Canyon Commons plaza in San Ramon; Tender Greens joined Harvest Market in downtown Walnut Creek; and popular Walnut Creek bakery/sandwich shop A Sweet Affair is opening another location in Danville, replacing Quiznos on Hartz Avenue. Plus, Chipotle is opening in Lafayette next to Whole Foods.

Havana has a new chef, nabbing Nick Di Arenzo, formerly executive chef at Chow in Danville and Lafayette. The Walnut Creek eatery also plans to open a new café-catering headquarters on N. Main Street by August. Nearby, C U Sushi and Kacha Thai Bistro opened, while Ocean Bliss Sushi debuted in Pleasanton.  

On the other side of the hills, Commis chef-owner James Syhabout’s new downscale Southeast Asian spot Hawker Fare opened in Uptown Oakland, as did the second location of Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe. In Berkeley, Chez Panisse cook and Oliveto alum Aaron Rocchino and his wife, Monica, are planning to open an artisan butcher shop on Shattuck in the Gourmet Ghetto. The Local Butcher Shop will sell meat from sustainably raised animals and is shooting for an August debut.

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