Had a really nice meal at Oliveto in Oh-town (too far west to be in Berkeley isn't it?) and would like to share the experience.
I was slightly ticked when we arrived a tad early for our 8:45 res and was informed we may not be seated until well after nine, so we opted to cancel on upstairs to eat in the bar area. All was not lost, however, a killer vermouth (sp?) of rare and impeccable quality quickly calmed me. We ordered up some food and this is what went down.
While at the bar we ate califlower cooked in the wood oven, marinated with orange peel and big kalamata olives: this dish was very comforting in its simplicity but exotic and complex at the same time.
When we sat down we were treated to a couple glasses of bruno giocosa arneis-a stellar sauv blanc from northern Italy I believe. We chomped with great relish on grilled monterey squid with fresh ceci beans and wild arugula in a piquant remoulade. This was quite possibly the most edible squid I've ever had, ever so tender with an intense smoky flavor from the grill. (sp mistakes all over that last paragraph i'm afraid-hmmm, maybe not-forget it, its late)
Next came rockfish ravioli alla livornese-a tomatoey sauce spiked with garlic and tiny specks of oregano. This dish showed what Paul Bertoli does best (sorry for slaughtering the name, Paul): simple pasta thin and delictae encasing a remarkably flavored filling of fresh fish and herbs. This food is so honest and unpretentious, and utterly satisfying.
We finished with a mixed grill of lamb chops, duck sausage, and skewered cured pork, in a dark pool of jus. While the duck sausage was a bit too salty, it was all washed down with abandon with several (four?) half glasses of different red wines. I really like it when you can get wines by the half glass-as stated elsewhere you always get more than just a half glass and you can subject your overly tired dinner partner to a veritable gauntlet of vinos-we had a nice chianti, a Provencal red, a bell peppery bordeaux (which in any other context I would have not liked at all given its vegetal character, but with the salty duck it seemed earthy and robust-sometimes two wrongs do make a right ...) and another wine which eludes me for the moment.
Dessert was a cherry blossom panna cotta which was out of this world good. Everything I like in a dessert-not too rich, not too sweet, not too big, just right!!!
For a little over $100 it was a bargain (again, we mercilessly split everything). This is classic california cooking, like campanile but even better, more pure, and without the hollywood blow-hard types to sour ones mood. If you haven't been, go. If you have, well, let me know.
One last comment-Chez Panisse cooking is the book that really got me going at home-that and Olney's Simple French Food. The staff seemed so happy to be at work that it seemed unfair to the rest of us. Truly a great night to be a chowhound.
As far as I'm concerned, Paul Bertoli is a freakin' GOD!
It is getting late and I'm about to polish this bottle of rioja, so please cut me some slack on any grammatical or spelling errors.
That is all.
Peace and grub y'all.
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