Bites: What’s new on the East Bay food scene, XIV

Bites is Berkeleyside Nosh’s round-up of restaurant, bar and food-related news in the East Bay. Bites is produced by Nosh in collaboration with Christina Mitchell, founder of East Bay Dish. To stay up-to-speed with all that’s going on locally, read our daily Nosh Wire, and check out previous editions of Bites. We always love receiving food-related tips at

Coming soon…

Venezia-Dining-Room-1024x768MONARCH TRADING CO. Joel DiGiorgio plans to open a “Californian crafthouse” restaurant serving pizza, salads, and lots of California-centric wines and beers in the Caffe Venezia space at 1799 University Ave. in Berkeley. DiGiorgio, who was born and raised in Berkeley and comes from a restaurant background, tells Berkeleyside Nosh that his family are close friends of Caffe Venezia’s owners and he’s thrilled to be taking over the place. He says he has lots of exciting plans for Monarch Trading Co. which he hopes will be open by this summer. More details to follow. Meanwhile, Caffe Venezia will hold a “Farewell Venezia Opera Night” with stars of the West Edge Opera on Tuesday, April 9, $15 per person cover charge, classic Venezia menu. Call for reservations 510-849-4681.

Sweet Leaf Ted Friedman

Sweet Leaf: getting ready to open at 2468 Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Ted Friedman

SWEET LEAF The Shamtoob family has been feeding Berkeley residents for decades with its trio of restaurants: Pancho’s Mexican Grill, King Pin Donuts (both in the Durant Food Court), and BayKing. The latter sweet shop, at 2468 Telegraph Ave., closed its doors about three months ago. Now Sasha Shamtoob is following in his father Dari’s footsteps. He is getting ready to open Sweet Leaf Café in the old BayKing site. The new café will offer lots of baked goods, cookies and muffins, and will also serve large, healthy salads. “There is no great salad store (on Telegraph) since Intermezzo burned down a year ago,” Shamtoob told Berkeleyside. Sweet Leaf Café will offer a signature salad with mixed lettuces, sprouts, garbanzo and black beans, shredded carrots, cherry tomatoes, egg and croutons. The “sweet” in the name refers to the baked goods and the “leaf” refers to the salads.

joshu-ya brasserie, jason kwon, fb

Jason Kwon, who has taken over Ann’s Kitchen and will rename it The Bleecker Street Bistro.

BLEECKER STREET BISTRO About a month ago, Jason Kwon, chef-owner of Joshu-ya Brasserie at 2441 Dwight Way in Berkeley took over Ann’s Kitchen, the much-loved casual breakfast and brunch restaurant around the corner at 2498 Telegraph. The plan is to close Ann’s sometime this summer and reopen as The Bleecker Street Bistro. Not much has changed yet under the new ownership, but Kwon has started donating 10% of the restaurant’s proceeds to Build Hope International. He has also started writing a cookbook memoir with a working title F’n Animal in the Kitchen.

kain'bigan facebook

Charleen Caabay will open Kain’bigan on Oakland’s 14th Street

KAIN’BIGAN Chef-owner Charleen Caabay just signed the lease for her first restaurant on 14th Ave. in Oakland after cooking at pop-up events locally for several years. Kain’bigan, which means “let’s eat, my friends” in Tagalog, will serve Filipino comfort food like chicken adobo, pancit noodles, and of course, lumpia. There’s a fundraising campaign going on if you would like to help open the restaurant. 2101 14th Ave., Oakland.

EASY CREOLE A new restaurant is to open in the former Ming’s Chinese Kitchen at 1761 Alcatraz Ave. (at Ellis) in Berkeley, says Tablehopper. Grant Gooding, Jess McCarter, and Jeron Thomson started Easy Creole a pop-up in San Francisco, and the brick-and-mortar location will offer traditional New Orleans dishes (Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya), along with creative interpretations (Spinach-Mushroom étouffée, Sweet Vegan Gumbo). The plan is to open for lunch and dinner in about a month.

What else is going on…

berkeley wine festivalBERKELEY WINE FESTIVAL The Berkeley Wine Festival kicks off this weekend at the Claremont Hotel with a grand opening reception. This year, Scott Quinn, the new chef at The Meritage at the Claremont, will be there, along with other Berkeley chefs and more than 45 wines to sample. There’s a free shuttle from the Rockridge BART station for commuters. The festival continues with a brunch the next day and weekly wine dinners through May. Claremont Hotel & Resort, 41 Tunnel Road, 800-551-7266, Sat, March 16, 4-9 p.m.

BEHIND THE CART Behind the Cart is a privately held dinner series, organized by occasional Berkeleyside Nosh contributor Michael Davidson (aka the GrilledCheezGuy) that brings together some of the Bay Area’s best food carts, trucks, and chefs to prepare a meal together for guests in a secret location. Each meal includes a discussion between the chefs and the guests to share stories, talk about food and food issues, and generally share in their passion for food. On March 30 BTC will host its fifth event in the series. East Bay food trucks will serve as the backdrop to the dinner so guests can get a “behind the scenes” look at “behind the cart.” (View the menu.) The dinner will be held on March 30 at 7 p.m. at a secret location in SOMA. More details on Behind the Cart’s Facebook page and buy tickets.

Screen shot 2013-03-14 at 12.01.27 PMSOLEIL BANGUID Sadly, Soleil Banguid, the much-loved chef-owner of Soleil’s African Cuisine on Webster Street in Alameda passed away after suffering from a stroke at the age of just 45. Banguid and his wife TJ were preparing to promote his food at Whole Foods Market. A native of the Democratic of the Congo, he was an accountant before he started cooking food from different regions of Africa, first at the Farmers Market and then at The Frog & Fiddle in Alameda. Read more in The Alamedan.

umami mart lease signing partyUMAMI MART Last summer, the owners of Japanese kitchenware shop Umami Mart were given a daruma to celebrate their grand opening. Traditionally, one eyeball is drawn in while making a wish, then the other eye is filled in when the wish comes true. The wish was to sign a lease after six months of free rent negotiated through Popuphood’s neighborhood revitalization project. And they did it! Umami Mart will be setting up shop in Old Oakland for at least another two years. To thank the community for all the support, they’re having a Lease-Signing Party with champagne. RSVP to 815 Broadway, Oakland. 510-575-9152.

Photo: Haven

Photo: Haven

HAVEN Haven’s Chef Kim Alter is up for a people’s choice award for best new chef in a Food & Wine online contest. Voting lasts through March 18. Alter is the only East Bay chef in the mix, so show some local love if you’re a fan. Vote here. (See a NOSH photo feature on Haven here.)

Bites is Nosh’s round-up of restaurant openings, happenings and closings in the East Bay. Got a tip or scoop? Send it our way to nosh@berkeleyside.comFollow Berkeleyside NOSH on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Some of these items may first have appeared in Shop Talk, Berkeleyside’s regular column in which we post updates on Berkeley businesses. Got a tip for Nosh Bites? Send it

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  • EBGuy

    Opportunity knocks. Looks like Sweet Leaf Café will try to fill the big salad void!

  • Name

    “Monarch Trading Co.” is a terrible name for a pizza joint.

  • We understand beer, particularly beers brewed in California and locally, will play a significant role at the restaurant. We’ll have full details soon.

  • SarahSiddell

    Herbivore has some excellent salads. I was there for the third time in a week today (each time with a different friend). The food is just so good! And many of my friends who eat meat often can’t believe vegan fare could be so delicious.

  • B2B

    Very unhappy that Venezia is closing, but understand why. More unhappy that the take-over is going to be a pizza place. Market is over-saturated.

  • David D.

    Why add “on Telegraph” to the quote? Now that Cafe Intermezzo and New Amsterdam are closed, the only passable spots are Smart Alec’s (not their specialty) and Berkeley Floor Cafe (somewhat pricey). Looking forward to good, reasonable priced salad opportunities in the near future!

  • David D.

    Herbivore is a sit-down restaurant. Not the same at all…

  • David D.

    Agreed. There are 5 pizza joints within 3 blocks of the Venezia space, and another half dozen or more within another couple blocks.

  • EBGuy

    Thanks for the heads on Herbivore. The only -vore restaurant I knew about in Berkeley was the now shuttered Omnivore. I may give them a try on a date night out. I do feel David D.’s pain though — I’m pining for a big salad to go (and its attendant non-PC packaging… okay maybe we can get some new packaging.. sigh ).

  • Chris J

    The Filipino restaurant that is hopefully soon-to-open and seeks out financial help to the tune of $50k from their donation campaign I find rather unsettling. While I certainly can’t help but wish her well in her efforts, the cloud over this is that, let’s face it…most restaurants fail rather quickly, and its never really much to do with the quality of the food as ‘the rest of it’. Given how many good causes out there already exist where a donation can actually save a life or build one up, supporting a dream of a restaurant simply seems like a toss of my money into a toilet. And only $50k? Nowadays its often thought that unless one has at least a couple hundred thou in a bank account, you might not last six months.

    Wish her luck, but seriously–I fear this effort is doomed.

  • Chris J

    AND DOUBLE–agreed…jimmy. Might as well be another coffee joint…