Oliveto’s Bob Klein can’t get enough of white truffles

Bob Klein, co-owner of Oliveto restaurant and Café in Rockridge, has come to know and love truffles. Photo: courtesy Oliveto

Bob Klein, the owner of Oliveto, cares so deeply about truffles that he is currently nursing several broken ribs sustained while out on an adventurous truffle-hunting expedition in Tuscany.

Klein heads to Italy every year to meet up with his friend Giorgio Sacchini and his pack of truffle-hunting dogs (watch the video below, shot on one of those trips, to see just how one unearths the subterranean mushrooms.)

What Klein finds, he brings back for the Oliveto truffle dinners prepared by the Rockridge restaurant’s chef Jonah Rhodehamel which are happening right now (see below for details).

NOSH checked in with Klein this week and asked him about his intriguing hobby.

Why the passion for truffles?
I don’t know if  it is a passion really, it is just something that I could do and got good at. I’ve come to know a great deal about truffles, and have probably bought (and cleaned) a couple of hundred pounds of white truffles — that’s a lot.

When did you first discover truffles, and where?
My earliest, and best memory of truffles is coming back for dinner to our truffle hunter’s house, and having him mash all the small whites into new olive oil and slather it over grilled meat.

How often to you get to hunt for them?
I used to go with Giorgio on treacherous hikes out into the woods for hours but no longer, because of my knees. I go on the truffle hunting trip every year to buy truffles from Giorgio as well as to attend the big truffle shows.

What are your favorite types of truffles and how do you like to eat them?
My favorites are white, shaved over hand-cut egg pasta. The dish is called Tajarin.

Tell us something about truffles we don’t know.
Sometimes truffles will ripen, and come full fragrance, after they are collected. They don’t necessarily begin their decline at the time they’re collected. I’ve bought truffles without a great deal of fragrance, and they have exploded with fragrance after getting them home.

Bob and Maggie Klein, and Oliveto’s Executive Chef Jonah Rhodehamel, are hosting the last two days of four “Nights Celebrating the Truffle” tonight, Thursday Nov. 15 and tomorrow Friday, Nov.16. The à la carte menu includes dishes such as Carne Cruda of Angus beef with white truffle-scented quail egg yolk; Pan-Roasted Scallops with cauliflower two ways and black truffle spumante sauce; and Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Rotolo with truffle-studded farsa, roasted sunchoke purée, and pancetta vinaigrette. Past desserts from Pastry Chef Jenny Raven have included French Butter pear budino with black truffles in Cognac and agrumato cream and House-made Quince Membrillo with truffled Bianco Sottobosco cheese.

When: Tuesday, Nov. 13-Friday, Nov. 17. Regular dinner service starting at 5:30 p.m.
WhereOliveto Restaurant & Café, 5655 College Avenue, Oakland, CA 94618.
ReservationsRecommended. Can be made by calling 510.547.5356 or online at Oliveto.

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  • ExileetleRoyaume

    Great restaurant. I remember frequenting it when it first opened in the late 80s early 90s, a time when I lived in San Francisco. Oliveto took up residence with Bay Wolf and a small, very innovative spot called Broadway Terrace Cafe where Montclair and Upper Rockridge meet, and conspired to overthrow the then dominant (and false) notion that Oakland languished in the shadows of Berkeley and San Francisco’s cuisine. It was up to these three restaurants to lift the flag, and they did. Oliveto even attracted San Franciscans to Rockridge (the same skin-deep liberals who still slag Oakland as if it were a mix between Mad Max and Foxy Brown), eliciting begrudging respect that Oakland could set a fine table in (gasp) a beautiful neighborhood.

    Heading toward thirty years later, Baywolf, the grande dame of Oakland’s slow cuisine and a contributor to the nouvelle cuisine in the country, still waves the flag, and so does Oliveto. The great thing for this lover of fine foods is that I returned recently to Bay Area and had a meal at Oliveto. The restaurant somehow managed to evoke treasured memories and at the same time something new, something unique, and something of an ongoing journey still in its early phase.

    Many thanks, and stay forever young, Oliveto!