Tag Archives: Corso Trattoria

Few surprises in Michelin’s 2017 SF dining guide

Carne asada taco from Tacos Sinaloa Berkeley. Photo: Kate Williams
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Once again, Oakland’s Commis was the only East Bay restaurant to receive Michelin stars, according to the newly released San Francisco Bay Area list by the Michelin powers-that-be. The restaurant, owned by James Syhabout, received its first star in the 2010 guide, and received its second star last year. Berkeley’s Chez Panisse held one star for four years, but lost the star in the 2011 guide.

As in years past, the East Bay has performed slightly better in Michelin’s un-starred Bib Gourmand category. This list is made up of generally more affordable restaurants — they must serve two courses and a glass of wine or a dessert for $40 or less (before tax and tip) — that the anonymous Michelin inspectors say serve “high quality food” and that they often “frequent themselves when off the clock,” according to a press release. … Continue reading »

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East Bay Restaurant Week specials begin Thursday

Calavera is a Mexican restaurant serving up dishes inspired by the Oaxacan region. Photo: Benjamin Seto
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It’s that time again — time to revel in the prix fixe glory that is Restaurant Week.

In the East Bay, we get more than two weeks of specials between Oakland and Berkeley. Oakland’s Restaurant Week begins tomorrow, Jan. 14 and runs through Jan. 24. Berkeley’s event overlaps a bit, beginning on Jan. 21 and running through Jan. 31.

Participating restaurants offer prix fixe menu specials at lunch and/or dinner. Oakland menus will go for $20, $30, $40 or $50. Berkeley lunch menus will be priced at $20; dinners will be offered at $25 or $35. Menu lengths vary from restaurant to restaurant. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Perdition closes, changes at Oliveto

Barbecue spread at Perdition Smokehouse. Photo: Perdition Smokehouse
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Openings, closings

PERDITION SMOKEHOUSE CLOSES SUDDENLY We were surprised to hear that Berkeley’s Perdition Smokehouse shuttered suddenly this week. While the barbecue itself wasn’t particularly memorable, Perdition did have one of the best tap lists around and an excellent outdoor patio on which to drink them. The East Bay Express had the scoop, but didn’t have many details on the reason for the closure. EBX speculated that the closure was likely tied to former chef Mike O’Brien’s decision to leave the company, which also includes The Trappist, The Trappist Provisions, and Mikkeler Bar in San Francisco, earlier this month. (O’Brien was the chef at both Perdition and Mikkeler.) A source close to the company also speculates that this split was the source of financial strain for the company, enough that it caused the restaurant to close. We have reached out to owner Chuck Stilphen, as well as O’Brien, but have yet to receive any comments on the closure. For now, though, we’ll just have to mourn the loss of that tap list. Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Corso expands salumi, pasta programs

Briganti pasta from Corso. Photo: Alix Wall
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With the opening seven years ago of Corso, co-owner and executive chef Wendy Brucker and co-owner Roscoe Skipper set out to recreate a trattoria with the simplicity of a Tuscan restaurant. The restaurant quickly found its regulars, partially due to the reputation of its sister restaurant Rivoli. However, chef de cuisine Scott Eastman says the restaurant is just now finding its groove.

“It’s taken us some time and practice to really get there, but now is the time where the restaurant is really starting to reach the mind’s eye of what the owners wanted it to be,” he said.

Eastman would know. He’s been there since the restaurant opened in 2008. “I had the opportunity to see a restaurant from its beginning and I just continued to grow with this place,” he said. … Continue reading »

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Ms Barstool: Cocktail invention at food mecca Corso

Justin Sutton making cocktails at Corso. Photo Corso
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At the height of service, it’s not always easy to get into a conversation with a bartender, even when you are a person who calls herself Ms Barstool. So we set up a pre-cocktail meeting with bar manager Justin Sutton and bartender Matt Bruns prior to hopping on a barstool at Trattoria Corso in Berkeley.

We wanted to hear about some changes the trattoria has undergone, including a new bar program, and what happened when they took the TVs away.

Sutton, a former Marine, had jobs in several local dining establishments, including Absinthe in San Francisco and Revival in Berkeley, before finding his way to Corso. Bruns went to culinary school, worked in several restaurants in Atlanta, then moved here and started a new business in town.

Both Sutton and Bruns were delighted to have the chance to talk about what they do, and to share some of their behind-the-bar techniques. A dedicated bartender will tell you that what one orders off the cocktail menu is often the result of several tries at getting the drink just right. Bruns said he likes to put a “modern-day twist” on the cocktails he creates. (Bruns also creates at Shrub & Co based at Berkeley Kitchens, producing a variety of shrubs: a blend of fruit, sugar, and vinegar—originally intended as a way to preserve fruit in Colonial times, now enjoying a second career as tasty additions to cocktails.) … Continue reading »

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Bites: Tia’s, Longbranch, Descanso, Plank and more

Dana Zumot, the new owner of Tia's, a cafe that has replaced Levant, which was only open a few weeks. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Openings, closings…

TIA’S A new café called Tia’s is set to open imminently at the spot once occupied by the short-lived Levant Organic Café on the corner of Kittredge and Oxford streets in downtown Berkeley. The owner, Dana Zumot, has previously worked as a restaurant manager and her love of cooking led her to open her own place at 2177 Kittredge St. Tia’s will be a casual café serving salads and panini sandwiches, as well as coffee and tea. With its location close to the Cal campus, and its light-filled atmosphere, Zumot is hoping Tia’s becomes a popular hang-out space. Telephone the café at 510-647-9863 to confirm it is open before venturing out. … Continue reading »

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Bites: Cask, Café Underwood, Fieldwork Brewing Co.

beers
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Openings, closings…

CASK ON COLLEGE IS OPEN Berkeley has a new upmarket liquor store with the opening of Cask at 3185 College Ave. (pictured above). We told you in March about plans by Future Bars, the group behind San Francisco cocktail bars Bourbon & Branch and Local Edition — as well as the forthcoming Tupper & Reed cocktail bar in the old Beckett’s space in Berkeley — to take over College Avenue Wine Spirits & Deli. The deed is done and, as Tablehooper reports, Cask on College is now up and running. Cask says it specializes “in curating a selection of hard-to-find, unusual, esoteric, and generally tasty wines, spirits, beers, and mixers, along with some interesting books and bar tools. We try our best to select only the best products that we can find, and we offer you our assurance that our buyers have tasted or used every product before they hit the shelves.” Connect with the business on its website and on Facebook.Continue reading »

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6 Berkeley restaurants snag Michelin Bib Gourmands

Comal. Photo: Postcard PR
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Six Berkeley dining spots have been named Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants this year, including newcomer Comal.

Two names are missing this year from last year’s list of seven: Berkeley Thai House, on Channing Way, and eVe on University Avenue. Thai House is still going strong but eVe closed in late 2011 and came back under the same ownership last year as Peruvian rotisserie chicken joint Brasa.

The six restaurants are: Comal, Corso, Five, Gather, Ippuku, and Rivoli.

Michelin judges give the ‘Bib’ to restaurants that serve two courses and a glass of wine or dessert for $40 or less (tax and gratuity not included). “Most importantly, they are the restaurants that the company’s inspectors frequent themselves,” Michelin said on its release. Michelin selected 70 such places for its 2013 San Francisco area guide which covers the entire Bay Area and wine country, down from 77 last year. … Continue reading »

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5 Berkeley restaurants make it into Chronicle’s Top 100

Corso Trattoria: one of just five Berkeley restaurants to make it into the Chronicle's Top 100 list
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The Chronicle’s food writer Michael Bauer chose the same five Berkeley restaurants that made it into last year’s Top 100 for his 2012 selection.

The “Top 100 Restaurants” list, which was published yesterday, embraces Chez PanisseIppukuO ChaméRivoli and Corso Trattoria.

Ippuku, known to be favorite haunt of Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters, was a newcomer last year. Rivoli and Corso share the same owners: Wendy Brucker and Roscoe Skipper.

In all, the list, which is in its 17th year, has 15 new restaurants and has dropped the same number, and Bauer notes that a trend this year has been for chefs to embrace the concept of Californian cuisine. Chez Panisse calls itself Northern California/Mediterranean, even though its roots are decidedly French and its branding, with its old Marcel Pagnol movie clips, retains a Gallic flavor. Bauer reports that other Bay Area restaurants — including Solbar, Bar Agricole, Canteen, Gary Danko and Manresa — have switched their allegiance from American to Californian. … Continue reading »

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Ethnic eats in Berkeley from A to Z: Part 1

Corso's signature chicken dish. Photo: Courtesy Corso Restaurant
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Berkeley is an ethnically diverse town. Anyone whose child attends public school here doesn’t need census tract data to know this for a fact. That cultural diversity is also reflected in the range of restaurant choices here. Global grub — from gourmet to grab ‘n’ go — can readily be found in many of our neighborhoods.

But who doesn’t reflexively head to their local curry shop or Thai takeout without giving a moment’s thought to the international offerings all over town?

What follows is the first in an A to Z guide to the many ethnic restaurants in Berkeley, with favorite dish recommendations and tidbits gleaned from local food critics, Berkeleyside interviews, and the restaurant guide by new Berkeleyside partners Lucille and Art Poskanzer.

It’s by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to add your own global picks in the comments section that follows. Or weigh in with what world cuisine is missing in the mix. Bon Appetit. … Continue reading »

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Revealed: A Berkeley restaurant guide and labor of love

Corso: described as "xxx" in the Poskanzers' guide
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Over the past 34 years, Art and Lucille Poskanzer, who dine out at least once a week, have compiled what is probably the only dedicated restaurant guide to Berkeley and Oakland. However, unless you happen to work at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, it’s unlikely you will have seen it.

That changes today, as Berkeleyside is honored to be able to introduce “Restaurants in the Berkeley Area”, which includes regularly updated reviews of 100 restaurants in Berkeley and 80 in Oakland, as well as maps and a recent news section.

The printed guide began life in 1978 as “Guide to Berkeley’s Restaurants and Hot Tubs”. It was conceived by Berkeley Lab physicist Art Poskanzer, who, that year, was tasked with hosting an international nuclear physics conference which drew in many out-of-town visitors.

“This was the days before Yelp,” Poskanzer says today. “We wanted to be able to provide a useful dining-out resource for visitors.” … Continue reading »

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Marc Kelly dishes on the story behind Berkeley’s Soop

Red lentil soupL In demand with new moms
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As mid-life crises go, Marc Kelly’s was a pretty productive one — with a little spice thrown in for good measure.

Seeking change after a 20-year career in the fruit and vegetable export business, Kelly was keen to open a food joint of his own. Something modest and manageable, a takeaway place that satisfied his culinary aspirations and cravings.

That’s how Soop, one of the original anchor businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden, came about.

Kelly, a self-taught chef, determined that soup was an unexplored market niche in the edible landscape. He sensed an opportunity. Six years into serving up soup every day, Kelly’s enthusiasm for the comfort food he sells is still apparent.

He has a loyal band of regulars — Kelly sees them coming and knows which ladle to reach for. And his years of global travel inform what he sells: every culture has a soup tradition and on the road he learned the universal language of soup. … Continue reading »

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Farmers’ market favorite Phoenix Pastificio

Mike Detar hawks Phoenix products -- and serves up recipe suggestions -- at the market.
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It’s one thing to run a successful food business. But to have two edible start-ups do well, even in a food-friendly town, is quite an accomplishment in an industry known for slim profits and fickle customers.

That’s the case for couple Eric and Carole Sartenaer, who started off with a little bakery in Kensington called Semifreddi’s — ring any bells? — sold that for a tidy sum three years later, then departed to Oregon for seven years to run their own bakery before returning to the Bay Area in 1993.

Eric worked for Fat Apple’s in El Cerrito for two years, but he was eager to start another food business. So, in 1995, he set up shop, and later a restaurant, on Shattuck Avenue turning out fresh pasta at The Phoenix Pastifico. The company also makes a line of baked goods — cookies, macaroons, and biscotti  — as well as its signature olive bread and pasta sauces. … Continue reading »

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