The Lure of Fresh


Riva Cucina

    Expect to find assorted creative offerings involving heirloom tomatoes on the fall menu at Riva Cucina. “September is a great month for heirlooms,” says chef Massi Boldrini, before reeling off a list of adventurous and exotic soup, salad and main course possibilities. Inspired by land and sea, he offers seasonal lunch and dinner menus—as well as daily offerings. All evolve according to what is fresh, local and available from the market and from his suppliers. Riva Cucina is the creation of husband-and-wife team Massi and Jen Boldrini. “We thought we were a little out of the way and were pleasantly surprised at the quick and wonderful response,” Jen Boldrini says. But the West Berkeley restaurant, which focuses on northern Italian cuisine, was an instant hit when it opened—proof that people quickly gravitate to interesting, well-prepared food, such as fresh handmade ravioli that might be filled with asparagus or pear, when these are in season. Riva Cucina is half a block from the Scharffen Berger chocolate factory and offers indoor and outdoor seating and breakfast as well as take-out lunches and dinners.
Riva Cucina, 800 Heinz Ave., 7:30 a.m.–8 p.m. Mon.–Fri., (510) 841-7482,

Small Thyme Café

    The well-appointed and inviting Small Thyme Café has taken the spot of the CremaLita ice cream store that didn’t have a long life on Piedmont Avenue. Owner-chef Larry Kiesler opened his Martinez-based Small Thyme Catering business in 1997. He spent 18 months looking for the right venue to open a beer, wine and espresso bar with an American-Asian-Italian-themed menu, “heavy on the appetizers.” Entrées, from pork loin to vegetable ravioli, and salads and sandwiches are available for those who want something substantial.
Small Thyme Café, 4301 A Piedmont Ave., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Tue.–Thu., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 10 a.m.–3 p.m. brunch Sun., (510) 594-6899,
—Wanda Hennig

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