Author Archives: Kate Williams

Bites: Nizza La Bella, Passione Pizza Emporio, more

The bar at now-closed Nizza La Bella. Photo: Nizza La Bella/Facebook
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Openings, closings

NIZZA LA BELLA HAS CLOSED The well-loved bistro in Albany closed as of July 12. In a note posted on the restaurant’s exterior, Nizza La Bella‘s owner announced that she was ready to retire after 17 years of running the restaurant. The note also thanked the restaurant’s regular customers and listed each employee by name and length of employment. Nizza La Bella specialized in casual cuisine from Nice, France, which has long had an Italian influence. Much of its menu, including its ever-popular pizza, was cooked in a wood-fired oven. The restaurant space is currently on the market, and we will keep you posted as we learn of Nizza’s replacement. … Continue reading »

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30 new East Bay restaurants, bars for you to try now

Dishes from Burma Bear in Oakland. Photo: Chloe List, courtesy Postcard PR
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Something’s in the air this summer. It’s not even August, and we’ve already covered the openings of 30 East Bay restaurants and bars since Memorial Day. With all of this excitement, it can be hard to keep up.

Here at Nosh, we’ve decided to do the hard work for you and compiled a running list of all the new spots. Of course, with restaurant openings invariably come restaurant closings, and so we’ve included our tally of those below. Click on the restaurant’s name to read more about each spot on Berkeleyside. And if you need more dining inspiration, don’t forget to check out the Nosh Guide for all of your breakfast, lunch and dinner needs. … Continue reading »

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Luckyduck Café to pour beers, sell bikes in Oakland

Luckyduck cafe space. Rendering: Luckyduck Bicycle Cafe
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“We’re not trying to be a jerk bike shop,” says David Archard.

As someone who generally avoids bike shops, and “jerk” bike shop employees as well, preferring to slip quietly in and out of low-key co-ops like Missing Link, that’s good to hear. In other words, I’m Archard’s target customer for Luckyduck, a soon-to-open bike shop, café and “social club” in downtown Oakland.

According to the company website, Luckyduck aims to “focus on self-actualized education, camaraderie, and general bicycle advocacy” in an environment that combines the services and products of a bike shop with the “positive and relaxed vibes found in a coffee shop or beer garden. No pretension or pressure.” … Continue reading »

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Bites: East Brother Beer Co., T-Rex, Stag’s Lunchette

Brewing tanks at East Brother Beer Company. Photo: Courtesy East Brother Beer
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Openings, closings

EAST BROTHER BEER COMPANY HEADED TO RICHMOND In case the recent abundance of openings wasn’t enough, the East Bay is set to get yet another brewery, this time in Richmond. East Brother Beer Company, named for the lighthouse just north of the Richmond bridge, will be focusing on updated “craft classics made with precision” — saison, red IPA, red lager, oatmeal stout and a pilsner. Co-founders Chris Coomber and UC Berkeley alum Rob Lightner have been friends for 20 years and home brewing partners for around seven. While neither have professional brewing experience, Coomber has “spent the last five years devoting himself to a rigorous autodidactic program focused on the home brewing sciences,” according to the brewery. He and Lightner have also brought on Peter Landman (Deschutes, Draught Works, Fifty-Fifty) as head brewer. When the East Brother opens (tentatively) in August, it will offer its beers in a taproom at its brewery, as well as in local bars and restaurants. East Brother Beer Company will be at 1001 Canal Blvd. (near Wharf Street), Richmond. Connect with the brewery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Giovanni to reopen as Gio’s this fall

The facade of Giovanni's. Photo: Ted Friedman
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The fire that broke out at Giovanni last spring may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

In 2014, local developer Nathan George and entrepreneur Xin Jin began discussions on the sale of the restaurant with the Schipani family, the owners of Giovanni. It was a sentimental place for George, who started eating at the historic Italian restaurant with his wife shortly after moving to Berkeley.

“It was our go-to place,” he said. “When [the Schipanis] took it over [again], we became very close to them. We talked with them about their struggles with management, and we were always trying to get more people to eat there.”

Read more about the original Giovanni on Berkeleyside.

George, Xin and the Schipanis went back and forth about the sale for about a year, but finally set a date to sit down with their lawyers to sort out details on April 24, 2015. The restaurant caught on fire the morning of April 23.

The fire slowed down the paperwork, and the deal wasn’t finalized until the end of 2015. Construction started soon afterward, but what was originally intended as a basic update turned into a much bigger project.

“The whole building needed to be upgraded,” said George. “It wasn’t ever intended to be a big project, but we’re more excited about the restaurant’s prospects now. It’s going to be a much better place than if we had just retained the old space.” … Continue reading »

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Nosh Weekend: 24 hours in Winters

Downtown Winters, California, a great spot for a 24-hour getaway from the East Bay. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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Welcome to the first installment of “Nosh Weekend” — what we plan to be a regular series of travel stories around the Bay Area. We’ll explore off-the-beaten path locations within a short distance of our East Bay home, all with the aim of tasting new and exciting food and drink. First up is Winters, a small city located near Davis in Yolo County.

Driving into Winters after leaving the bustle of the Bay Area is like entering an alternate universe, a universe that looks simultaneously like a picturesque 1950s town and an old western movie. The small downtown area has charm in full effect, complete with a bandstand and wide, lazy streets. Visitors and residents congregate on the street and on the newly constructed nature trail, ready to chat up any passers-by. It’s not a place with a million events and activities, but that’s all the better — here, you’re encouraged to wind down and sip your coffee (or wine or beer) slowly. For a 24-hour trip, Winters is perfect. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Eatsa, Grand Fare, Rhetoric Coffee, more

Photo: Eatsa/Facebook
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Openings, closings

EATSA TO TAKE OVER FORMER CREPES-A-GO-GO IN BERKELEY The robots are coming. Sort of. The high-tech automated quinoa bowl restaurant Eatsa is planning to open its third Bay Area location on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, in the recently vacated Crêpes A-Go-Go. According to Eater SF, Eatsa hopes to open by the time students show back up at Cal’s campus in the fall. Eatsa serves a mostly-healthy menu of grain bowls and salads like the Spice Market Bowl (corn curry, roasted yams, saag paneer, cucumber raita, tandoori tofu, warm lemon-herb toasted quinoa, pita bread and fried chickpeas) and the Bento Bowl (stir-fried quinoa with egg, edamame, crispy wonton strips, teriyaki sauce, miso portobello mushrooms and apple-cabbage slaw). Select locations also offer breakfast. What makes Eatsa stand out amongst the other bowl-and-salad spots now popping up in the area is that the restaurant does not employ any front-of-house staff; instead, customers place orders on iPads or smart phones and then pick up their food in a glass cubicle. (Actual human prep cooks prepare the bowls behind the scenes.) Another difference? The price. Each lunch Eatsa bowl is a mere $6.95 and breakfast items are all under $4  — good news for college students and budget conscious diners alike. Eatsa will be at 2334 Telegraph Ave. (at Durant Avenue), Berkeley. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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Bites: Agave Uptown, Plentea, Nellie’s Soulfood

Mole-topped appetizers from Agave Uptown. Photo: Agave Uptown/Facebook
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Openings, closings

AGAVE UPTOWN NOW OPEN Uptown Oakland’s second Oaxacan restaurant officially opened on Wednesday. Agave Uptown is the second restaurant for chef Octavio Diaz, who opened the original Agave in Healdsburg in 2010. Arcsine-designed Agave Uptown focuses on “farm-raised ingredients and handmade cooking … [and will] draw from the artisanal tradition of Oaxaca,” according to a statement. Its menu highlights mole, plus other traditional dishes like molotes (empanadas made with masa), cecina (pork in adobo), and several tacos. Most notably, the new restaurant is working in alignment with the Kapor Center for Social Impact in which it is located. Diaz wants the restaurant to serve as an incubator for underrepresented communities with interest in the culinary field. He plans to partner with nearby schools and colleges to provide internships. Agave Uptown is at 2135 Franklin St. (at 22nd Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.Continue reading »

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Dueling noodles: Shiba Ramen and Itani Ramen

Shio pork ramen from Itani Ramen. Photo: Kate Williams
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To get to Shiba Ramen, you must navigate the Emeryville Public Market parking lot, weaving around small children running free from their parents and shuffling behind slow moving tourists spilling out of Hot Italian. The Shiba stall is near the back of the market, surrounded by mostly empty stall-fronts. On a Saturday evening, the market’s tables were about half full, with at least a quarter occupied by guests eating ramen.

While Shiba generated long lines and quite the hype before its opening in late 2015, the diners that evening seemed more concerned with eating dinner and getting on their way than having a mind-blowing ramen experience.

That’s what co-owners Jake Freed and Hiroko Nakamura were aiming for — accessible, streamlined ramen — and that’s what we found on our recent visit. … Continue reading »

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Fleet Farming builds bike-powered urban farms

Fred Lake and Justin Vandenbroeck of Fleet Farming. Photo: Kate Williams
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It’s a sunny day in West Oakland. I pull up to the corner of 10th and Campbell streets and look for produce. The lettuce and vegetable sprouts are at first a little hard to find, but eventually I spot three long rows of dark, healthy soil tucked in the back of a church’s yard.

This is a “farmlette” — a mini urban farm — run by Fleet Farming. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Red Bay Coffee Box, Agrodolce, Firebrand

Red Bay Coffee Box. Photo: Red Bay Coffee Roasters/Facebook
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Openings, closings

RED BAY COFFEE BOX NOW OPEN AT THE HIVE Close to a year after announcing it would be opening a café built out of a converted shipping container in Oakland’s Hive complex, Red Bay Coffee Roaster‘s “Coffee Box” is now open. In addition to coffee, we hear from East Bay Dish that the Coffee Box is offering baked goods from Oakland-based Tart Bakery. Funds for the café were raised through a successful $80,000 Kickstarter campaign last spring — the most successful coffee campaign ever on the crowdfunding site, according to Red Bay founder Keba Konte. But permitting issues delayed the opening of the café, despite the fact that Konte had finished construction on the container months ago. In the meantime, Red Bay launched several farmers market stands, including one at the downtown Berkeley market, added Uber as a client, and built out a new headquarters in a converted factory in Fruitvale. The Red Bay Coffee Box is at 2327 Broadway (between 23rd and 24th streets), Oakland. Connect with the coffee roasters on FacebookTwitter and InstagramContinue reading »

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Oxford Street parklet, Berkeley’s third, opens today

The Oxford Street parklet. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley’s third parklet, and downtown’s first, will officially open at 5 p.m. today. The outdoor seating area covers 2130 to 2136 Oxford Street in front of Sunny Side Café, East Bay Spice Company, Cinnaholic and Suya African-Caribbean Grill.

The Oxford Street parklet’s design was inspired by the west entrance to UC Berkeley, which is almost directly across the street. It has a concrete wall inspired by the classical buildings on campus adorned with metal cutouts of a Cal Bear, the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco skyline. “Our communal vision was to create a similar aesthetic, that of ornate cement and metalwork with an old world field,” Joel DiGiorgio, co-founder of Farm League Design and Management Group, told Nosh in an email. Farm League is the management company behind East Bay Spice Company.
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Review: ‘Flavors of Oakland’ cookbook

Baklava from 'Flavors of Oakland.' Photo: Anya Ku
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When I first heard about a cookbook being written by two teenagers, I must admit that I didn’t expect much. I knew the co-authors were enthusiastic, and that one of the two had experience working in well-regarded Oakland restaurant kitchens. I knew they had a good idea — telling a story of Oakland’s diversity through recipes — but I couldn’t imagine that two full-time students with no publishing experience could pull off anything more impressive than a culinary ‘zine.

I was wrong, of course.

“Flavors of Oakland: A Cookbook in 20 Stories” is a solid, honest-to-goodness cookbook with tested recipes and a spine that thankfully allows for any page to stay open when flopped on the kitchen counter. It weaves together 20 very different life stories of home cooks from every nook and cranny of the city, while offering a quirky and fairly comprehensive array of recipes. … Continue reading »

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