Tag Archives: Corso Trattoria

6 Berkeley restaurants snag Michelin Bib Gourmands

Comal by 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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7 Berkeley restaurants get value nod from Michelin

Ippuku2
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Seven Berkeley dining spots have been named Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurants. The ‘Bib’ is bestowed to restaurants where the Michelin judges deem one can eat well for $40 or less (plus tax and tip), and Michelin selected 77 such places for its 2012 San Francisco area guide.

Ippuku, the Japanese dining spot on Center Street, received the accolade for the first time. The other six are: Corso, eVe, Five, Gather, Rivoli, and Thai House.

Ippuku serves traditional yakitori and a wide selection of the Japanese spirit shochu, and has found a loyal following since it opened in July 2010. Not long after its launch, Alice Waters told Berkeleyside that it was one of her favorite haunts. “I really don’t want to tell too many people about it because I don’t want the place to get too busy,” she said.

Michael Bauer included Ippuku in the Chronicle’s Top 100 restaurant list for 2011 and praised chef Christian Geideman for his grilling expertise, and his partner Paul Discoe, who designed the restaurant, for his mastery in carpentry. … Continue reading »

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Homegrown truths: Sunny Side Café chef Aaron French

Aaron French
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Aaron French, a self-described eco-chef, has headed up the kitchen at The Sunny Side Café on Solano Avenue in Albany since it opened in 2004.

For the past two years he’s served up breakfast standards (think pancakes and eggs) and simple lunch fare (burgers, sandwiches, salads) at a satellite café of the same name in Berkeley.

French bounces between the two popular spots several times a day and jokes that the breakfast-brunch shift is the Rodney Dangerfield of cooking (it don’t get no respect).

Still, he’s proudest of his low carbon emissions menu options and his weekend food specials, a short, seasonal list that emphasizes local farms and calculates food miles.

French isn’t your typical chef. Before he cooked for a living he worked as a scientist. His interest in ecology led him to spend two years living among pygmies in Cameroon, where he studied seed dispersal by monkeys and birds.

An avid nature photographer, he’s also written about the relationship between ecology and food for the Bay Area News Group, where he penned the EcoChef column, as well as for Civil Eats and Fungi Magazine. … Continue reading »

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The culinary couple behind Berkeley’s Corso and Rivoli

Corso couple
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This is a story about a little neighborhood restaurant opened in 1994 — a shared vision between two partners in work and life, who built an acclaimed destination dining space serving up fresh, homey food with complex flavors and nods to Italian, French, and Californian cuisine.

And it’s the story of how this culinary couple followed the success of their first eatery by opening an authentic Tuscan trattoria nearby three years ago. That place proved popular with critics and customers too.

This is also the story of the enduring power of friendship and love. Friendship, respect, trust, admiration, and love in the face of the demise of a long-term marriage, where two people who see the essential good in each other decide it’s a bad idea to stay together. And so they go their separate ways personally but manage, despite the initial challenges of seeing the ex every single day, to keep working together as partners in a labor of love. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Kitchen on Fire booms during economic bust

Dishes prepared by Kitchen of Fire. Photo: KoF
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The two self-professed clowns behind Kitchen on Fire, who like to ham it up with kitchen utensils for the camera, are quite serious about their mission: they want to teach people to cook real food for themselves.

Chefs MikeC and Olivier Said launched the Gourmet Ghetto business in 2005, but it really took off during the economic downturn. That’s when a lot of folks realized they couldn’t afford to eat out as often as they wanted, and they set out to learn how to D.I.Y. dinner at home.

For those who lost their jobs, there was both a hunger and a need to learn their way around a kitchen; some hoped they might pick up skills that could lead to employment, and a cooking school seemed like a good place to do that.

Kitchen on Fire classes now regularly sell out. To meet the growing demand, this summer the kitchen classroom will expand to a second location in West Berkeley, which boasts an even bigger space.

The new kitchen will be housed in the Rocket Restaurant Resource supply store, where, this Sunday, Bay Wolf’s Louis Le Gassic and Corso Trattoria‘s Rodrigo Da Silva will battle it out in an Iron Chef culinary contest, part of a fundraiser for Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner.

Earlier this week I met with MikeC, 33, who lives in Central Berkeley, to find out what’s cooking at Kitchen on Fire. … Continue reading »

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Ippuku in Top 100, 5 Berkeley restaurants make cut

Ippuku
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And now Ippuku in Berkeley joins the hallowed ranks of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Top 100 restaurants for the first time (published in yesterday’s paper, not yet available online).

Ippuku, which was given three stars by the Chronicle’s food critic and Top 100 compiler Michael Bauer in his October review,  joins four other Berkeley restaurants in the hall of fame — three of which are Top 100 veterans. They are: Chez Panisse/Café at Chez Panisse, O Chamé, Rivoli, and Corso Trattoria. The last two are both run by Wendy Brucker and Roscoe Skipper.

Ippuku was opened in 2010 by chef Christian Geiderman whose purist tendencies extend to not serving wine. Instead, the restaurant specializes in shochu, a Japanese spirit, and offers beer. … Continue reading »

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John Scharffenberger: From chocolate and wine to tofu

John Scharffenberger/Photo: Anne Hamersky
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Long known for the success of his premium wine and chocolate companies, John Scharffenberger is making a name for himself these days as a tofu hawker.

In June, Scharffenberger, 59, who divides his time between a home in North Berkeley and a place in the country, signed on as the CEO of the Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, an artisan food factory that makes products from organic, non-GMO soybeans.

The company, whose founder Minh Tsai was previously profiled here, makes fresh tofu, yuba (tofu skins), and soymilk, as well as prepared dishes such as spicy braised tofu salad, poached yuba loaf, and soy omelette. … Continue reading »

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Giving thanks with Berkeley’s Café Gratitude

Berkeley's Café Gratitude on Shattuck Avenue
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Alice Liu is the general manager of the Berkeley branch of Café Gratitude, a position she’s held for about a year.

Originally from Taiwan, Liu has owned her own café, Cones N Cakes, in the Excelsior District in San Francisco, and ran Baci, an upscale Italian restaurant in Vallejo, before becoming involved with Café Gratitude through her boyfriend, who also works for the local chain, which has five restaurants in the Bay Area.

The vegan, organic, mostly raw and largely gluten-free “living foods” café features communal tables and a menu sporting dishes that go by positive affirmations such as “I am Thankful” (Coconut Curry Soup), “I am Cheerful” (Live Sunburger) and “I am Marvelous” (Raw Cacao Mocha).

Diners can play the board game “Abounding River” designed by the company owners, which encourages self-reflection, as do the cards found on every table. Servers ask customers a question of the day, such as “What are you grateful for?” and “Who is your hero?” … Continue reading »

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