Di Bartolo Meets Bread

By Wanda Hennig
Photography by Lara Hata
It’s heartening to see an eatery open and have instant crowd appeal. Such was the case with Café Di Bartolo. The buzz—and the customers—was there from the day the stylish joint opened on Grand Avenue, right next to the decade-old coffeehouse of the same name, also owned and run by Jon Di Bartolo.
    The menu offers small plates and, as one has come to expect with new restaurants that have a California or European focus, an emphasis on seasonal and fresh. I found the seafood à la plancha entree ($18) disappointingly bland, with overcooked tiger prawns. But on a second visit, the foodie friend I went with voted the Costa Brava pizza (with chorizo, red peppers, shrimp and nicoise olives, $14) the best she’d eaten in ages, and our frites with garlic and fresh herbs ($5) were awesome. Maybe it was the wine or eating at the cozy little bar in back that added flavor.
    Cafe Di Bartolo, 3308 Grand Ave., (510) 451-0576. Open for dinner Tuesday to Sunday.

Over in Albany, the new House of Bread, while part of a franchise, bakes and makes everything on site, using organic grains. “We purchased the name, the knowledge, the recipes and training and were given a list of vendors to buy ingredients from,” says Wayland Gee who owns the place in partnership with Kirby Ung.
    They have an extensive selection of hearty sandwiches ($5.50) plus assorted breads and pastries. Gee’s first food experience was delivering pizza while studying agricultural economics at University of California, Davis, where Ung was his roommate. He says he persuaded Ung to invest in a business rather than sink his savings into a house.
House of Bread, 841 San Pablo Ave., (510) 524-5126, 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.

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