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Diablo Dish -- November 2010

Theatre Sqaure in Orinda gets another new place to chow down and gourmet groceries seem to be popping up all over. All that and more, in the Dish!


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Orinda’s Theatre Square is showing more signs of life, as partners Ryan Mason, Justin Bain, and Adam Sall move toward opening Bonfire Pizzeria by early January. Pies will be neighborhood pizzeria–style, but made with only local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. Sall, a Lafayette resident with a two-year-old daughter and another on the way, says he and his partners were inspired to open the restaurant to offer a healthy alternative to their kids’ favorite food: “I love pizza; we all love pizza, but I was sick of feeling guilty about feeding it to my daughter.”

Between the child-friendly pizza, a planned beer/wine license, and an NFL-ticket package, the partners hope to keep the restaurant fun for kids and adults alike. Bonfire joins new cupcake shop Republic of Cake and the recently opened Table 24 in Theatre Square.

Speaking of healthy cuisine, the Farmers Diner is eying Lafayette as the first location for a planned string of Bay Area restaurants. The Vermont-based company plans to work closely with area farmers and purveyors to design a hyper-local, seasonal menu that’s also affordable: most entrées are all priced under $16. The company also is looking at other spots along the I-580/680 corridor and hopes to open up to six locations in the Bay Area—and as many as 40 stores across the country—as part of an ambitious 10-year plan. Owners aim to open the first restaurant by next May.

But enough of this Goody Two-Shoes stuff: Tammie Parnell hopes to open her new Sinful Bliss Cupcakes by February. Trying to set her downtown Pleasant Hill cupcake store apart, the Walnut Creek resident says she plans to specialize in custom designs while her store will have more of an urban, lofty feel. “It’ll be a little more on the adult side,” says Parnell, who added that she might eventually try to get a liquor license and transform her shop into a “dessert lounge.” Naughty, naughty.

Blackhawk’s trio of new restaurants—Laurus, Stomp, and Coa—has a new executive chef, as Tom Voss will now oversee day-to-day operations. Voss comes from Roy’s, where he helped open several of the upscale Hawaiian restaurants on the West Coast. Founding chef Matthew Silverman will still be involved as consulting chef. Also getting a new chef is Oakland’s Flora: Christopher Dettmer from Napa’s Michelin-starred Meadowood didn’t last long before he was replaced by Rico Rivera, formerly a chef at Pizzaiolo. Co-owner Dona Savitsky says Rivera’s more casual, rustic culinary background was a better fit for the popular Oakland eatery.

Amarone in Pleasanton will get a fresh look after being sold by owners Matteo and Frederica Pasotto. New chef-owner Nicole Skillings, who bought the restaurant with her mother and two partners, previously worked as a pastry chef for Blackhawk Grille and Garibaldis, and the Pleasanton native plans to feature more seasonal ingredients in the fresh-made pasta dishes, as well as a revamped dessert menu. 

In Walnut Creek, Henry’s Farmers Market—think a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s—is going into the old grocery co-op location on Geary Road near North Main Street. Henry’s would be the anchor tenant of three new retail buildings planned for the long-dormant site. In Dublin, similarly themed grocery chain Sprout’s Farmers Market announced plans to occupy the old Circuit City building. 

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