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Berkeley - Phoenix Next Door - Desperately seeking Meyer lemons

rworange | Oct 24, 200501:42 AM


Phoenix Next Door is an interesting and unique place to hang out and enjoy a plate of fantastic pasta. Europeans would be envious of the charm of this café inside a family-run bakery and pasta shop.

It shares the same space as The Phoenix Pastificio pasta shop where fresh pasta is continuously being made and customers come in and request the fresh 10” x 13” pasta sheets cut to order in four sizes: pappardelle, fettuccini, linguine and angel hair … or whatever size is needed.

The plate-licking, memory-making menu is at the end

This was a first visit to the shop and, even though it HAS been mentioned on Chowhound, I forgot was surprised to see the little café. It was love at first site and bite.

How good does this sound …

Goat cheese and herb ravioli in brown butter with sliced ‘last chance’ yellow nectarines, roasted salty-sweet walnuts, caramelized onions, wine-plumped sultanas, garlic and basil.

Surprisingly it wasn’t sweet but savory, extremely rich and spicy. The warm toasted walnuts and brown butter were time-stopping, savor-the-moment great. The taste of fresh basil in the cheese filling also was so good that each bite needed to have full attention. Add to that the tart, browned nectarines and plump sultanas. Memorably good.

A dish of fresh grated parmesan comes with all pasta.It seems there are off the menu things that regulars know. For example, bread is served with wonderful sweet butter. However, you can request olive oil

One of the drinks is Meyer lemon juice with either still or sparkling water. The server asks if you want it with sugar in a tone that implied only wuzzies take it with sugar. Being no wuzzie, sugar was declined.

The rest of today’s menu is at the end.

Pasta selections change daily and rely on the freshest seasonal ingredients that are usually organic and local. The pasta is made from organic flour and organic eggs from free-range chickens. The combinations of the top-notch ingredients are clever and delicious

The Phoenix Pastificio pasta and baked goods were always a favorite at the Berkeley Farmers Market. The first taste of the warm from the oven, flakey Danish remains a happy memory. .

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote “The restaurant is nicely designed but not separated from the retail or pasta-production spaces, so you get a nice feeling of involvement. What you need to do is pretend you're on vacation, lunching in a small family restaurant where the chef wanders through, chatting.”

Homey, comfortable, and friendly, it feels like being allowed to hang out in an Italian pasta shop with the owner’s friends and family, watching the staff makes the pasta while being fed delicious dishes.

In fact, Antoine, the 11 year old son of owners Eric and Carole Sartenaer, was sitting at the counter playing a game. On the wall there is a picture of him intently playing a chess game. Two relatives or friends finished their breakfast and walked over to the big industrial sink at the back of the restaurant and washed their plates. I wondered momentarily if this was expected of everyone … personal bussing to the extreme

The decade old pasta shop was opened by Eric Sartenaer who also founded Semifreddi's bakery and worked at the Cheeseboard for eight years. According to one source resumes of some of the staff who have worked at the pasta shop includes alumni of Zuni Café, Rick and Ann's and Ristorante Ecco. The café opened in January 2000.

The café is pleasant. Piñatas cheerily hang from the high ceilings, the large sunny windows provide lots of light and there was some great Latin music. There is a coffee bar. The tables are EXTREMELY closely spaced. Luckily it was opening and before the crowds arrived.

Is there a Bay Area restaurant that does NOT serve the pasta? It has been reported that over 300 Bay Area restaurants serve the pasta including Greens, Boulevard, Baywolf, and Lalime’s.

Service can be slow only because there's a lone chef preparing everything, all of it cooked to order. The staff is busy, but friendly. Take out of lunch dishes is available.

I like this place enough to take visitors, not only for its tasty food but for its European, yet distinct Berkeley vibe.

About the subject. There was a sign in the window saying "Desparately seeking Meyer Lemons".

The rest of the lunch menu.

Yellow Bell and Habanero linguine with seared wild and farmed mushrooms, fresh English peas, Italian red onions, garlic and basil in extra virgin olive oil, finished with cow’s milk cottage cheese.

Roasted red bell pepper linguine with blue lake green beans, pan-braised corn, seared white field mushrooms, Walla Walla onions, garlic and basil in extra virgin olive oil.

Porcini linguine with smoked chicken, seared wild and farmed mushrooms, farm fresh okra, spring onions, hot-house tomatoes, garlic and herbs.

Garlic parsley pappardelle con Bolognese Semplice – naturally-raised ground beef cooked in milk, then white wine, organic tomatoes, mirepoix, garlic, spice and basil.

Basil pappardelle con Salsicce – a SPICY sauce of naturally-raised ground pork, organic tomatoes, seared and wild farmed mushrooms, mirepoix, chilies, garlic, spice and basil.

Fresh Egg pappardelle con Sugo d’Agnello Forestierre – piquant sauce of naturally-raised ground lamb, organic tomatoes, caramelized fennel and onions, hot chilies, garlic, lemon grass, white wine and basil.

Meyer lemon fettuccine with seared Black Tiger prawns, tender eggplant, slow-roasted tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, garlic and basil, finished with dry Vermouth.

Antoine’s Special egg noodles in butter.

1786 Shattuck Ave. (at Francisco),
PHONE: (510) 883-0783.

Pasta Shop & Bakery:
Mon-Sat: 7:00 am- 8:00 pm
Phoenix Next Door Cafe:
Mon-Sat: 11:30 am- 2:30

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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