You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as passionate about ice cream as Scott Whidden, the Oakland born and raised masterblender at Fentons Creamery and Restaurant. He’s talking about cream; he’s talking about dairy. He’s talking about layers: of flavor, of contrast, of crunch versus creamy, and of bitter versus sweet.
Born and raised in Abruzzo, Italy, Chef Giuseppe Naccarelli, formerly vice president of kitchen operations for Il Fornaio restaurants, opens his very own slice of Italy—Trabocco, named for a fishing pier along the Adriatic coast of his hometown.
Managing a restaurant empire is hard enough work without adding in a regular commute, as Oakland-centric chef-entrepreneurs like James Syhabout, Chris Pastena, and Alexeis Filipello can attest. This may be why, even though San Francisco is just a Bay Bridge trip away, many East Bay restaurateurs haven’t made the leap to expand there—and why the same goes for SF-based empire-builders opening East Bay spots (Daniel Patterson excepted). But as Oakland’s food scene continues to gain traction (and San Francisco real estate prices continue to skyrocket), the East Bay is seeing more glimpses of manifest destiny from the San Francisco restaurant community.
Where does chef Kyle Itani of Oakland’s Hopscotch restaurant get his Duroc pork? From the same company that supplies Charlie Hallowell of Oakland’s Pizzaiolo with beef, Matthew Accarino of San Francisco’s SPQR with duck, and Sarah Kirnon of Oakland’s Miss Ollie’s with chicken.
It seems as though restaurateur/chef Charlie Hallowell can do no wrong. When he started his Italian gem, Pizzaiolo, in Temescal in the summer of 2005, it quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation, filled to overflowing every night, even when it didn’t have an outside sign announcing its location.
Grand Avenue seems to have always been overshadowed by its more happening neighboring thoroughfare Lakeshore Avenue. While cool coffee shops, pizzerias, and bars dotted Lakeshore Avenue, Grand seemed to be stuck in time, filled with quaint, but hardly destination-worthy, mom-and-pop businesses.
In a sprawling Berkeley commercial kitchen, workers pare squash. Chop eggplant. Heft trays of fresh pork shoulder. Scoop snowy mounds of garlic mashed potatoes into the left-hand sides of row upon row of Gideon’s Bible–sized plastic boxes. Whole star anise, bay leaves, and peppercorns dance in the thick braising liquid that simmers in a massive pot.
We do Mexican cuisine a disservice when we dismiss it as delicious but simplistic and spanning only a slender spectrum whose entire contents we know like the backs of our burrito-hugging hands.
When A16 debuted in San Francisco’s Marina District in 2004, it was an immediate hit and, nearly 10 years later, it remains one of the region’s top-rated restaurants. History repeated itself in June when A16 Rockridge opened on College Avenue in Oakland. From the get-go, seats have been in high demand in the splendidly remodeled dining room, in the bar/lounge (slightly more integrated into the overall space than when Hudson and Garibaldi’s dwelled there) and at the semicircular counter around the wood-fired pizza oven. You may have thought the East Bay didn’t need another eclectic Italian restaurant with a wood-fired pizza oven. The crowds say you would have been wrong.
Rockridge has long been established as one of the city’s most desirable, affluent areas. And with popular, gourmet restaurants such as Oliveto Restaurant & Cafe, Wood Tavern, and À Côté, it boasted the dining scene to match. But as the rest of the city’s dining scene exploded in recent years—Plum in Uptown! Commis on Piedmont Avenue! Bocanova in Jack London Square!—the grand dame of Oakland neighborhoods was starting to seem a little, well, stale in comparison.