Shop Talk: The ins and outs of Berkeley businesses

Caffe Venezia (1)

Caffe Venezia: to close after 33 years

CAFFE VENEZIA Caffe Venezia, on University Avenue at Grant Street, will close before this summer after 33 years of operation in Berkeley. Owners Jeff Wizig and Roger Feuer are retiring and selling the business, the restaurant’s manager said. A new owner plans to open a restaurant in the space eventually, but the lid is on precisely what it will be. Caffe Venezia, with its charming Venice street scene interior décor — fountains, balconies and washing lines included — has been a much-loved fixture on the local dining scene for generations of Berkeley families. Caffe Venezia’s founder, John Solomon, was the inspiration behind the “How Berkeley Can You Be Parade” that marched along University once a year for 13 years, until it was canceled in 2009. Berkeleyside Nosh will have a fuller report looking at the history of the restaurant and its place in city life soon. [Hat-tip: James Carr]

Monterey Liquors reopening under new owners

MONTEREY LIQUORS Monterey Liquors, at 1590 Hopkins St,. is to be reborn as an artisanal liquor and drinks store under the stewardship of Arthur Kinsey, former general manager of next-door’s Gioia Pizzeria, and Ryan Murff, bar manager at Berkeley’s Café Rouge. “We want to cater to the modern cocktail movement,” Kinsey told Berkeleyside. The store will stock local wines, small-craft beers and hard-to-find liquors, Kinsey said, as well as a good selection of bitters. The store is slated to re-open in its new guise — with a new name that is, at this point, “top secret” — on Feb. 1.

Hippie Gypsy

Hippie Gypsy Café: shuttered

HIPPIE GIPSY CAFE The Hippie Gypsy Café, which opened in September 2011 in the Gourmet Ghetto, has closed down. Owner Mary Dirks explained the reason on the café’s Facebook page: “There is a lot of ‘should of, could of, would of’s,’ but what it boils down to is that we just didn’t have enough customers to pay the rent.” The vegetarian and vegan focused Hippie Gypsy Café, which took over the space that used to be occupied by Village Grounds, had customers design their own  salads and sandwiches, which were made with Berkeley Bowl produce. Hippie Gypsy was at 1797-A Shattuck Ave., between Francisco and Delaware streets. [Hat-tip: Charles Siegel]

Hot sauce shop Heat opening on MLK

Shop Talk Briefs… A new store devoted to hot sauce — Heat Hot Sauce Shop — is to open at 1922 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Berkeleyside Nosh will have the skinny shortly… A number of Berkeley businesses are on the move: Keetsa, which sells eco-friendly mattresses and sleep products, is relocating from the 800 block of University to 2117 San Pablo Ave.; Berkeley company Body Time, which has three Berkeley locations, is moving one of them from 1942 to 1950 Shattuck Ave.; Pilates to the People has opened up at 2124 Dwight after moving from Jack London Square; and women’s sportswear store Title Nine has moved from 1840 Fourth St. to 2037 Fourth St., and will reopen Feb. 1.

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses — openings, closings, new directions, relaunches, relocations. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleysider who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details. Read previous Shop Talk columns here.

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  • Bill N

    So sad to hear this but I’m happy for Jim and Roger. We’ve been going there for 30 years (ever since they were at Grove and University) and ate there just last night. I hope the new owners make the new place just as part of Berkeley as Venezia was – well, still is for a while.

  • Sam

    Caffe Venezia is having a meeting with surrounding residents to discuss the new concept for the space which, according to my understanding of their invitation, can best be described as something along the lines of Pizza Hut. Or, as they put it, a pizza place where “families can come after little league games” or some such. What’s with all the pizza lately?

  • guest

    What is the connection between Triple Rock Brewery and the new hot sauce place?

  • No, keep Venezia as much as possible as it is. We have taken visitors from all over the world there, and it’s a good place for kids and people who want very good food. Malefati con funghi is a favorite of mine, and I’ve never found a dish to compare, even in Italy.

  • Mbfarrel

    Bye bye Venezia. I have never been treated as poorly as I was there. Front of the house was dreadful twice (that’s all the chances you get.) Food was ordinary. Glad you’re leaving.

  • the Deer

    Ah, glad we have been revisiting the old favorite…at times less than it ought to be, but oh so yummy now, and in it’s first days, what a magical place. One of my dearest friends worked there in those first days, and I had many a romantic date with my honey there at the time. I guess, many romantic dates over the years! Now, family dates happen, we will enjoy as much as we can!

  • Bill N

    I don’t think that will work here but maybe I’m wrong. We certainly won’t bother,

  • Lissu

    We need another good Italian restaurant on University Ave. I sure hope they’ll keep the interior because it really creates a great atmosphere that lets me reminisce (I’ve lived in Europe several decades and been to Italy 5 times). And as someone else mentioned, please – not another pizza place! We already have at least 4 pizzerias on University Ave.

  • Tim C.

    if only there were someone to take it over in the same tradition…especially the cannelloni…..which is pretty much unparalleled. I had many dinners, special occasions, office luncheons there and consider it my go-to place for out of town visitors…I guess, it’s just thanks to Jeff….and good luck in your next adventure.

  • MHNeighbor

    ah…the ever opportunistic Gioia group…taking over the liquor store…how will they thumb their nose at the neighborhood this time?

  • Romantic Venezia nostalgia from here as well. I lived a block from U. Ave. and MLK (or was it still Grove back then?) when Venezia first opened. With Venezia right there and the hot tub place next door, we didn’t have to walk far for a romantic evening.

    Imagine being a college student in the years after Roe v. Wade but before the Aids pandemic….

  • serkes

    My mother loved the laundry hanging from Cafe Venezia … And with Restaurant Venezia just across Grand Canale University there were times I hopped on the Vap to cross from one o the other.

    And of the Hot Tub place I shall remain discrete though I do have a smile on my face.


  • serkes

    Discreet too

  • Rachel Anderson

    Delighted to hear that Art (who I like to call the “Mayor of Hopkins Street”) and his colleague are going transform the former Monterey Liquors. It will be a terrific addition to block. I’m looking forward to February 1.

  • guest

    So sad about Venezia !!!
    I grew up going there for big family dinners: Ristorante Venezia was my grandfather’s favorite restaurant.
    My baby sister fell in love with one of the original chefs (Steve?)who would take her for tours of the kitchen and always sent us out special treats…
    We’ll have to schedule one last big dinner there :(

  • Biker 94703

    Monterey Liquors was my corner store for years and I’ve been sorry to see it decline. Does anyone know the story? It seems like they hit a credit crunch a year back but it looked for a while like they’d turned the corner.

  • Steve Lane

    Keetsa does not sell eco friendly mattresses, they sell greenwashed Chinese made mattresses made from Petroluem chemicals

  • Rachel Anderson

    I wasn’t aware that Gioia had thumbed their nose at the neighborhood. I’m curious; will you elaborate?

  • jeff

    keetsa is not eco friendly. They are from china and made with petroleum despite their best efforts to convince you otherwise