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Diablo Dish -- June 2010

Danville wine bar Vinoteca, which closed suddenly in February, is reopening with new owners and a brand new concept, and it's a shocker: a dueling piano bar.


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Former manager and now coowner Stephany Emig confirmed plans for That Bar to open in August, complete with two baby grand pianos and a full liquor license. For those unfamiliar, the concept involves two pianists playing crowd-pleasers while riffing off each other. “We were trying to think about the best time we ever had at a bar,” Emig said. “Anyone we asked who had been to one of these bars said that was it.” Executive chef Francisco Ruiz plans a value-oriented, something-for-everyone menu. 

Fresh off being named one of the country’s top 10 undiscovered restaurant towns by livability.com, Walnut Creek scored yet another gourmet addition. Partners Ken Maraccini and executive chef Valentino Luchin took over the former Le Bistro space on North Main Street, opening up Ottavio. The Italian osteria will have an oft-changing single-page menu, featuring rustic, seasonal cuisine with influences from Luchin’s native Veneto region in Italy. Luchin’s impressive resume includes classic training in Italy, working for Lidia Bastianich in New York City, and serving as executive chef at San Francisco’s Rose Pistola. Ottavio was scheduled to open by mid-May.

In Orinda, Michele Lavecchia bought out his co-owners at Pizzeria Amoroma, changing the name to Trattoria Lupetti and expanding offerings to include a full menu of Roman-style Italian fare. In Lafayette, Postino has a new executive chef with the promotion of Stewart Beatty, who plans a few Asian touches to the restaurant’s rustic Italian/Californian cuisine. The man he replaced, Michael Zeiter, is the new sous chef at The Peasant & the Pear under chef-owner Rodney Worth, who set June 1 as the opening date for The Little Pear, his new Blackhawk Plaza eatery.

Daniel Patterson, of San Francisco’s Coi, is opening another restaurant in Oakland, this one in Uptown. With Bracina on hold awaiting the opening of Jack London Market, Patterson will work on opening Plum in the old Louisiana Fried Chicken space across from Luka’s Taproom on Broadway. Shooting for a midsummer opening, Patterson plans a Coi-like menu of ingredient-driven fare, but cheaper ($9–$19).

Two new cupcake shops will help satisfy the East Bay’s sweet tooth: Frosting Bake Shop uses organic, local ingredients at its new Broadway Plaza store, while Sweet Tart serves frozen yogurt and cookies in addition to gourmet cupcakes in Todos Santos Plaza.

That’s not all: Tara’s Organic Ice Cream and Scream Sorbet opened new shops in Oakland, a new Lush Gelato debuted in Berkeley, Häagen-Dazs comes to Broadway Plaza later this summer, Blackhawk Plaza welcomed yogurt shop Tuttimelon last month, Loard’s Ice Cream announced plans for new Danville, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek locations, and rumors are swirling about a new Powell’s Sweet Shoppe in Rockridge.   

Two popular 925 restaurants have new seasonal menus. Chevalier in Lafayette is offering a $39 three-course prix fixe menu, featuring regional French dishes made with local ingredients. New executive chef Eric Berg introduced a “Local Menu” at the Restaurant at Wente, in which all dishes feature ingredients from Wente’s on-site garden, with a two-course lunch for $19 and three-course dinner for $29.

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