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Diablo Dish — June '07


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Skipolini’s Pizza is slated to open its fourth location, in Concord, this month. The home of the “prego” pizza—a pie with loads of toppings that the owners claim can help induce labor—is also scouting for new locations in Livermore, Benicia, and Brentwood.

“We’re in a growth spurt right now,” says General Manager Tony Paredes. Unfortunately, the new Concord space—formerly T. R.’s Bar and Grill—won’t have enough room for the restaurant’s signature playground.

Celebrity visits have created a buzz at Lark Creek Walnut Creek. Yul Kwon, 2006 Survivor champion and a recent Diablo cover boy, dined at the restaurant the same night this spring as a member of the band Green Day.

Flora, an art deco, old-fashioned cocktail lounge and eclectic American restaurant, is slated to open this summer in downtown Oakland. It’s the first departure from Mexican cuisine for its owners, Dona Savitsky and Thomas Schnetz of Oakland’s Doña Tomás and Berkeley’s Tacubaya. The pair has been working toward their third restaurant since the summer of 2005. At the large wraparound bar—“the crowning glory” of the new venue, according to Savitsky—they’ll mix drinks with strict attention to tradition, right down to the size of the ice cube. “I guess you could call it the ‘cocktail dork’ restaurant,” says Savitsky.

After 30 years in the restaurant business, Claude and Dominique Lejeune are hanging up their berets. The pair has sold their 12-year-old Pleasanton establishment, Claude and Dominique’s Bistro, to Irina Voronina and Anatoli Pishenen. “Claude will be 73 this year,” says Dominique. “Myself, I'm 60 and some. I guess it's time to go.” According to Dominique, the new owners have vowed not to make any changes to the name, menu, or concept.

Brothers-in-law Ismael Palacio and Jose Luis Sanchez have opened Bambino's, an Italian eatery, at the former location of Aladino's on Farm Bureau Road in Concord. Palacio, who has been working in Italian eateries since high school, says he's excited to finally be co-owner of his first business.

Lovers of Napa Valley's food scene are in for yet more epicurean delight. Solage Calistoga, a luxury resort from the Auberge group slated to open this month, has hired a well-pedigreed chef, Brandon Sharp, to head the resort's restaurant, Solbar. Sharp has cooked for a number of greats, including Gary Danko and Thomas Keller. And this fall, the Oxbow Public Market, downtown Napa's answer to San Francisco's Ferry Building Marketplace, is scheduled to open. Tenants include Fatted Calf Charcuterie and Taylor's Automatic Refresher.

Paul Canales, executive chef at Rockridge’s Oliveto, has promoted two sous chefs, Guy Frenette and Pierre Harriet, to official chefdom. “In the current chef world, there's an Andy Warhol thing, where a million assistants are making art but only Warhol’s name is on it,” Canales says. “These are amazing guys. Let their moms have something on the refrigerator.”

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