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Bar & Restaurant Raphael in Berkeley

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Bar & Restaurant Raphael in Berkeley

Eric Stone | Aug 5, 2003 06:26 PM

Bar & Restaurant Raphael opened last week at 2132 Center Street (just east of Shattuck) in Berkeley, serving lunch and dinner Monday thru Saturday. My wife and I had dinner there last night. Disclosure: We are friends of one of the owners, so we have some personal (not financial) interest in the success of the restaurant.

Raphael is a certified kosher-dairy Italian restaurant. Being kosher-dairy, by definition it is vegetarian as well (well, the kind of vegetarian that permits dairy products and fish). It is co-owned by the Alper family including Noah Alper, the founder of Noah’s Bagels. Chef Domenico Testa is in charge of operations. Vegan choices, and choices that can be made vegan upon request, are noted on the menu. It is a casual, open, tastefully decorated room with a small bar area to the left of the front door. Pasta dishes are priced in the low teens, and fish dishes in the mid- to higher teens. There is a selection of pizzas, including a calzone, which was a highlight, but I did not note the prices.

The wine list runs to about 35 selections and tries to achieve regional diversity, which is not so easy under kosher restrictions. We had a really nice Bordeaux whose name escapes me. A full liquor license is pending.

A note for the kosher-savvy reader: The form of ownership does indeed permit the restaurant to stay open on the Sabbath while retaining kosher certification.

Some new-restaurant kinks are still being vigorously ironed out. Given that, and my personal interest as disclosed above, I don’t want to post a full critique here. We enjoyed our meal and will return. We are rooting for the success of this place. Raphael is an important and extremely welcome addition to the kosher-dining landscape. Yet, it strives to appeal to a wide audience on its own merits, and probably could not prosper solely on the Bay Area’s fairly small kosher-observant population. I would be interested to see a review from an impartial observer.

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