I'd heard through the Alameda food grapevine that Pappo was going to be the latest restaurant opened by a Bay Wolf alum, so I've been looking forward to its opening. It took over the space that was formerly the Skylight Cafe on Central just off Park Street (a restaurant so unprepossessing I was never tempted to eat there).
I was just going to scout the place for a visit with my sister next week, but I was seduced by the wonderful smells wafting out the door into sitting down and ordering dinner.
They've redone the interior really nicely, with an exposed brick wall and terra cotta tile floors giving it a slightly rustic Mediterranean feel, while the sleek polished dark wood furnishings give it a more upscale aura. It's very warm and inviting, and on a night when it was almost full, it had a convivial buzz that still allowed for conversation.
The menu is short but inviting: four first courses, four entrees and four desserts. I decided to skip the first course and go straight for the entree, which was a good decision, as it was substantial. With the restaurant's Bay Wolf pedigree, I figured I couldn't go wrong with the Liberty duck ($17.75). It came prepared two ways, with some slices of medium-rare breast and a leg that had been cooked so that the skin was crackling crisp and the meat fork tender -- sort of like duck carnitas. It was accompanied by a soft polenta enhanced with fresh corn and a wilted escarole salad dotted with diced pancetta (I could have eaten a whole plate of the escarole, which was a symphony of textures and flavors -- salty, smokey, pork-fatty and mildly bitter, with the richness balanced by red onion and a dash of vinegar).
Service was friendly but professional: everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about this undertaking. There certainly is enough demand for a place like this in Alameda, and the price point (entrees between $15 and $19) is inviting. I also have to give them credit for supporting local purveyors: the excellent bread comes from Feel Good Bakery and some of the meat from Baron's meats, both in Alameda Marketplace (I chatted for a few minutes with the owner of Baron's, who was making an emergency delivery of ribeye, as the kitchen had been on the verge of running out).
It's too early to make any definitive judgments, but the restaurant seems to be headed for rousing success.
2320 Central Ave. (just west of Park St.)
Although they will be closed this Sunday, beginning Tuesday their regular schedule will be Tuesday-Sunday.
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