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Restaurants & Bars 2

il porcino - solano avenue

mcchowhound | Apr 18, 200308:16 PM

There's a new Italian restaurant on Solano in Berkeley/Albany just west of Santa Fe Avenue. While by no means a Chow treasure, I think it will be a good addition to the neighborhood.

Il Porcino has been open a very short time - not more than a week or two. The space used to be the always-empty Aegean Grill. Last night - a Thursday - it was completely packed, although I haven't seen any references to it in print.

It's a large, open space, with soft lighting, not too loud, but furnished with the sort of bad Venus de Milo copies which are ubiquitous in East Coast Italian restaurants. The tables are very generously spaced, which is good for conversation.

We had sauteed squid as a first course. The squid were fresh and not at all rubbery, and there were some terrific salty olives in the dish, but it was really doused in red sauce.

Two veal main courses were much better. The meat was tender, accompanied in one by a good prosciutto and cheese. (Sorry - I forgot the other.) There were fresh vegetables, and a bit of pasta - all in all a good value for $12.95 - $14.95.

Service was earnest but really, really slow. Everyone from the waiters to the manager was apologizing, though no one I saw seemed to mind much. The staff clearly didn't expect anything like the numbers of people who turned up. Also, there's no wine list. They are delighted to let you run up the street to Safeway and get your own, which is graciously poured and admired. No corkage fee. (They expect to get a wine license within a week.)

This is a perfect, low-key neighborhood restaurant. The pleasant room and people and the fact that - even at full capacity - it isn't really noisy, make it a good choice for a quiet, relaxing comfort food kind of evening. I'll certainly be back.

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