Oh man, are I and my wife happy. We found good Italian in the Laurel district of Oakland.
The place isn’t a fashion statement, but it is just fine in this working class neighborhood. There’s fresh paint on the walls new furniture. There are a few small round tables outside and maybe 8 tables inside. It’s pretty much a bare rectangle inside with cheap fixtures beaming light from above. Some wall-sconces or other diffused lighting would have helped.
The menu is organized Italian-style with the dishes offered ala-carte and in distinct courses. I started with the aptly named “Vongole”, which is your standard group of clams in a garlicy-buttery-clam broth. The broth (always my favorite part) was heaven. I order this a lot in other joints and this was the best I’ve had in a year. The herbs and garlic are right up front where they should be, with the clam liquor providing a good bass note. The little-necks were overdone, but I soon forgot this as I sopped up the broth with the nicely toasted crostini accompanying the dish.
My wife’s bruschetta was also wonderful with flavorful tomatoes mixed-in with herbs and garlic on top of more pieces of the same crostini. The chef-owner Terrell Santiago is _not_ afraid of using garlic, raw or cooked. My wife and I revel in it, but be warned…:-)
I moved on to a Liguria – “Large shrimp, fresh tomatoes and spinach fettuccini tossed in a white wine-lemon cream sauce with dill”. The shrimp were large and were cooked to perfection, which isn’t easy when incorporated in pasta! The sauce was rich without being cloying and quite tasty.
My wife’s Glorioso – “Sautéed mushrooms and asparagus with lots of garlic, chili flakes and gemelli tossed with extra virgin olive oil” was also nicely done with the sauce perfectly covering the pasta and the veggies were clearly fresh.
Both portions of pasta were HUGE. We both finished about half and took the rest home. I would actually have preferred a smaller portion of pasta with the same number of shrimp. We both thought that the amount of the pasta would have served more than one person. At any rate, you sure get your money’s worth.
We both chose an off-dry Riesling from a local vintner. It was really complex and lovely. I wasn’t going to have any (being a weeknight and all), but relented after trying a sip of my wife’s.
Food: 7.5 (If the clams weren’t overcooked it would have been an 8!)
Service: 9 (Attentive and informative – our waiter felt like he was the owner, terrific!)
Price: $70 before tip on two appetizers, two pastas and two glasses of wine
Ambiance: 6 (OK – Nothing special, but if you are running an Italian joint, play Italian music!)
4171 Macarthur Blvd, Oakland, CA