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Diablo Dish -- June 2011

When one door closes, another restaurant opens. See what's shuttered up and who is ready to take over in this month's Dish!


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For five years, Incontro owner Gianni Bartoletti has lured diners to his gem of a restaurant hidden in a nondescript corner of San Ramon. Now fans of this three-time Diablo Food Award winner won’t have to look so hard, as Incontro is moving to downtown Danville—to the Hartz Avenue space formerly occupied by La Ultima Mexican restaurant. Bartoletti assures us that his menu of rustic Italian cuisine will remain unchanged; it will just be served with a little more room to breathe. “We’re basically just moving Incontro from this location to downtown Danville,” says Bartoletti, who hopes to open his new restaurant by August. Other bonuses of the new location include ample outdoor seating in an “Italian veranda”–style patio and a lounge area with, eventually, a full bar.

Since Bing Crosby’s closed abruptly at the end of last year, the rumor mill has been in overdrive about what would replace the popular Walnut Creek restaurant. The answer? Well, there are two, actually. Mill Valley–based Moana Hotel and Restaurant Group, which owns the Piatti restaurants among other ventures, will occupy one half of the empty restaurant with a gastropub. It’s a brand-new concept for Moana, and while details are still sketchy, the new eatery will have a heavy focus on local craft beers on tap. The emphasis is on the gastro, so this won’t be just another sports bar; there will be no televisions, and food will be gourmet, suped-up pub fare. Look for an end-of-the-year opening. Taking over the other half is La Boulange, the rapidly expanding local chain of Parisian-style cafés based in San Francisco. Look for La Boulange to open in late November, with its familiar menu of fresh-made soups, sandwiches, and salads, as well as a couple items unique to the Walnut Creek location, including a new savory waffle sandwich. Ooh la la! 

Daniel Clayton and Trace Leighton of Nibblers Eatery and Wine Bar in Pleasant Hill are venturing west, bringing their farm-based, sustainable fare to where the movement first started. The two co-owners are expanding to Berkeley, taking over the former Locanda da Eva space on Telegraph Avenue. The new restaurant will be called Origen: a Farm to Fork Restaurant, and as you may have guessed from the name, the food will be sourced from local, sustainable farms and venders (Origen is a Catalan word meaning “from the source”). Leighton says that Origen will offer a daily changing prix fixe menu, in addition to à la carte options with an international flair, and casual entrées, such as burgers and wood- fired pizzas that take advantage of the existing brick oven. They hope to be up and running by late summer.

Meanwhile, Vesu restaurant shut its doors less than a year after making a splashy opening last May. No word yet on what will take over the beautifully remodeled space and its prime downtown Walnut Creek location.

Some chef jostling to report: Va de Vi’s Arnold Pulido is out after five years, the last two as executive chef. Replacing him is Shane McAnelly, an East Bay native and Martinez resident, who brings some fine-dining experience from helping open the critically lauded Italian restaurant Zero Zero in San Francisco last year. Chuck Courtney is leaving the Lafayette Park Hotel after five years to head back to his old stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest, and Cyrus Irudistan parted ways with Walnut Creek’s Havana restaurant (he was formerly at Walnut Creek Yacht Club). No replacements had been named for those two as of press time.

Got Dish? E-mail us at dish@maildiablo.com.

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