Recalling Little Italy at Barlago

Rustic lakeside trattoria is family-friendly enough to feel like home.


Published:

Philip Raskin of Barlago.

Photo by Lori Eanes

Italian restaurants, like Italian people, dress in myriad styles.

You’ve got your paninotecas, your artisanal pizzerias. You’ve got your linen-napkin ristoranti and your abominations (lookin’ at you, Chuck E. Cheese).

And—thanks to Mercury, Apollo, and every other deity that ever smiled on Rome—you’ve got your welcome-homishly friendly trattoria. That is, we do. In Adams Point. Since July.

Barlago is family-friendly because that’s the kind of Italian restaurant its owner, Philip Raskin—who previously launched Filippo’s in Elmwood and Rockridge—grew up loving in Baltimore.

“Little Italy was where we always had family night out,” Raskin recalls. “The good times we had back then are what I wanted to re-create here.”

With its watercress-green walls, reclaimed-wooden indooor tables, and heated outdoor ones, Barlago redefines comfort in the form of Boont ale-braised short ribs, brunchtime pancetta hash, crackly-smoky Roman-style pizza (the size and shape of squashed rugby balls), deceptively simple but startlingly exquisite baked cauliflower and house-made, perfectly portioned pasta—try the white-on-white, pecorino-rich cacio pepe.

It’s called Barlago because it has a bar and lake views. Get it? Bar. Lago. Formerly housing Sorella di Zza’s and Zza’s Enoteca, this airy Ian McLean–designed 50-seat space features a bewitchingly illuminated bar with welcoming wooden-backed seats. Italian-inspired cocktails include the Fair Verona (Aperol, St. Germain, and prosecco); many of the 28 mostly Californian and Italian wines come in three different carafe sizes. (Happy hours six days a week simplify sampling everything.)

Among the very few dishes not made in-house from scratch is a glorious chocolate fondant cake so moist that you’d never guess it’s actually imported from Italy.

After closing his Elmwood Filippo’s, Oakland resident Raskin waited for a space to open near the lake. “I like this area. But it turned into a huge remodel that took a solid year. I had to throw everything into it.”

One thing he threw into it was sound-absorbing ceiling panels, so that diners can converse without shouting. This, too, is a gift from the gods.

Barlago Italian Kitchen, 550 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-836-2424, www.Barlago.biz.

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