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Diablo Dish — September '09

Another Maria (Maria) in Danville; Vietnamese noodles in Walnut Creek; a major face lift for Jordan's at the Claremont; and more in September's Dish.


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Carlos Santana–inspired Maria Maria is opening a third Bay Area restaurant in Danville later this month, replacing Amaranta in the Rose Garden, also home to Esin Restaurant. The new Maria Maria, a project of restaurateur Jeff Dudum, will adopt the contemporary design of Amaranta, but the popular Mexican-themed menu will be the same as at the more rustic Walnut Creek spot.


The family that owns El Balazo is getting into the pizza business, with a new Pleasanton hang called Mama Rosa, opening this month in the former Bakers Square spot near Trader Joe’s. Go there to enjoy an upscale beer and wine bar, pizza, pasta, and gelato—in a cozy brick spot reminiscent of an Italian trattoria.


Sipping coffee and snacking at the library will no longer be a no-no—at least not at the new Lafayette Library and Learning Center, which will also feature its own café. More Lafayette news: The city starts a farmers market pilot program this month at Plaza Park. If successful, residents may see more next summer.


It’s out with burgers and in with Vietnamese noodles on Walnut Creek’s Newell Avenue, as Pho Saigon Noodle House goes into the old Taxi’s Hamburgers spot later this fall. The locally owned eatery has two popular sister restaurants in San Ramon and Fremont. Also expanding is Alamo’s Brass Bear Deli, which will open a second location on Walnut Creek’s Main Street, next to Plearn Thai Palace.


Concannon Vineyard’s tasting room, designated a historic landmark, reopened after an extensive six-month remodel. The expanded room features refinished redwood from vintage redwood casks, slate floors, granite countertops, a stamped tin ceiling, and new windows offering vineyard views. Concannon has also added an outdoor patio with a fountain made from historic brick.


Delayed by a year, former Chez Panisse pastry chef Charlene Reis plans to open Summer Kitchen Bake Shop this month in Berkeley’s Elmwood neighborhood. Just down College Avenue, Michael Pearce and Kara Hammond hope to open Elmwood Café by the end of the year. And on College in Rockridge, Garibaldi’s owners are morphing the bar half of the restaurant into a sister version of their popular Marzano, with the same trattoria-style pizza-and-apps. The Garibaldi’s side, meanwhile, receives a makeover plus a new California cuisine–focused menu.


Rivoli reopened after a “deep cosmetic remodel,” which included hardwood floors, a raised ceiling with redwood slats, and natural elements to tie in with the restaurant’s lush garden. The Solano Avenue eatery also rolled out a full cocktail list. Another restaurant undergoing a big remodel is Jordan’s at the Claremont Resort & Spa. New executive chef Josh Thomsen, whose resume includes working under Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, will help relaunch the restaurant in late October. He plans a “farm to table” menu of contemporary California cuisine.


Finally, we’re sad to report the death of well-loved Vinoteca owner Leo Hartford, who suffered a heart attack on July 28. The Danville restaurant will remain open.


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

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