Sunday: after a few days in Reno-Tahoe and a really nice mountain hike, we got home in the early evening; I was in the mood for a casual yet slightly special dinner to cap off a nice weekend. Pasta sounded good after the hike, but hubby said that he wasnt hungry enough for Bacco (which I translated as I dont want to spend that much). I remembered hearing a mention of Lupa (24th Street near Castro, Noe Valley) on this board, so off we went. This place is about a year or two old, where Little Italy was for many years; this was our first visit.
I never ate at Little Italy, but hubby says the place has been fixed up nicely since that incarnation: tables further apart, comfortable ambiance. I loved the wood paneling and genuine feel of the place. I also loved the wait staff: the bus boy was so Italian he barely spoke English, and the (also Italian) waiter immediately started flirting with me (I am not sure hubby found that as endearing). All in all, Lupa is a very welcoming place.
We both had a tomato bread soup, which started as simple comfort food, until you bit into the one or two hidden hot red peppers. A surprise, but a fun one. I had spinach filled ravioli in sage butter, hubby had seafood risotto. Both were tasty. We had a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio, from a well-priced list of mostly Italians. Skipped dessert, since we are both trying to watch the pounds. Cost with tax and tip about $80.00. Not a destination place, but definitely a good addition to the neighborhood. As Hubby commented as we walked out, Noe Valley residents truly are lucky to have both a Ristorante (Bacco) and a Trattoria (Lupa) in the neighborhood
Monday: I had a meeting in the East Bay after work, needed to grab dinner alone between downtown Oakland and Orinda. I headed over to Rockridge, intending to go to Pearl Oyster Bar, but discovered, alas, that it is closed Mondays. Well, Oliveto is right across the street, and though I didnt have the time, money or inclination for upstairs, I decided to give downstairs a try. This was my second visit, and first in a few years. Even downstairs is pricier and more upscale than I remember. I ordered a beet and leek salad and an individual thin crust pizza. I am really not much of a pizza fan, but the menu was fairly limited (though you can order off of the upstairs menu downstairs if you wish) and the other choices didnt appeal. However, both salad and pizza were quite good. My only complaint was that the ingredients on my pizza (black olives, Serrano ham, red onion) were not evenly divided among the pre-cut pieces: one piece had almost all the meat, another most of the olives. Fine if one asks for that in order to share with a picky eater, but strange on a pizza for one.
One advantage of dining alone: I can devote more time to people and restaurant watching (which I enjoy). I did notice large differences in portion sizes depending upon what one ordered: my beet salad was a small to reasonable size for one, but I saw green salads that were easily big enough for two persons going to other tables. Similarly, the individual pizza was really big enough for two to share (especially if one wasnt skipping dessert as I did again), but the beef dish on the menu (I forget the Italian name but it appeared to be a type of daube or stew over a bed of Yukon gold potatoes) looked to be a fairly small portion.
With two glasses of Lambrusco (I knew it was going to be a tough meeting g-) cost ended up being about $45 with tax and tip. Service was friendly and professional.
I have never been a big fan of upstairs at Oliveto, but do like the downstairs cafe. Again, a nice neighborhood Trattoria option, and how lucky indeed are those of us who live in or have the means to visit Rockridge or Noe Valley .