Bites: Emporio Passione in Berkeley, Chick’n Rice still on summer break, 7th West grand opening

Passione Pizza and Hot Italian co-founder Fabrizio Cercatore will open a new pizza restaurant in Berkeley. Photo: Passione Pizza

THE PASSION OF THE CRUST A new pizza spot is opening in Berkeley next door to the CoRo Coffee Room. Passione Emporio comes from Fabrizio Cercatore, co-founder of Hot Italian pizza restaurants and Passione Pizza, a wholesale production company that makes pizza dough balls, pasta and gelato. Cercatore’s new restaurant on Fifth Street is in the same building as his production facility, and like CoRo Coffee Room has a window that allows customers to see into its coffee roasting space, Passione Emporio’s dining area will have a view into its production kitchen. Cercatore said the restaurant will be small, with seating for about 30 to 40 diners, and act as a “tasting room” for his Passione products.

Passione Emporio will serve pizzas offered with four different types of pizza crusts — classic, sprouted grain, whole wheat and gluten-free. The pizza doughs (as well as its pastas) are certified organic, and except for the gluten-free option, are made using flour from Utah-based Central Milling Co. The gluten-free dough is made from a combination of sweet rice, white rice and brown rice flours from California. All the pizzas offered will be baked in a wood-burning oven that “an Italian gentleman in California” built for the restaurant, Cercatore said. As for the gelato, which you can try locally at Hot Italian in Emeryville, is made using Straus organic milk.

Cercatore said Passione Emporio is still in construction phase. The space is being designed by Rick Irving Design, who also designed the CoRo Coffee Room space. Cercatore hopes to open Passione Emporio before the holidays, and if all goes well, maybe even by October. We’ll keep you abreast of new details as we get them on Nosh. Passione Emporio, 2326 5th St. (at Bancroft), Berkeley

CHICK’N RICE STILL ON SUMMER BREAK Downtown Berkeley diners may have noticed that fast-casual Thai street food spot Chick’n Rice on Center Street has been closed for the summer. Fans, like Berkeleyside reader Miranda Ewell wondered why it was still closed, even now with schools back in session. We reached out to Chick’n Rice to find out more information about the closure and were reassured it was temporary, “just for summer break.” The restaurant representative told us Chick’n Rice will reopen within the next two weeks. At this time, an exact opening date is still TBD, but hungry fans with a craving for khao mun gai will be glad to know they won’t have to wait too much longer for their next fix. Chick’n Rice, 2136 Center St. (between Shattuck and Oxford), Berkeley


GO WEST In case you missed the mention in Monday’s Nosh story on East Bay Filipino food, a new restaurant-bar-event space is opening this weekend in West Oakland. Called 7th West, the project comes from three Oakland locals, Donna Ischo Brinkman, Kevin Pelgone and Pancho Kachingwe, who wanted to create an affordable multi-use venue for the neighborhood. Aside from being the new permanent spot to get crispy spit-roasted pork belly lechon and other Filipino eats from Jeepney Guy, 7th West will also host art shows, live music, dance nights and more in its 8000 square foot space. An indoor bar will serve Filipino-inspired cocktails, and an outdoor beer garden will serve beers from Oakland. The space will be both kid and dog-friendly, too. The founders are all local business owners with prior experience running venues in the Oakland — Brinkman and Pelgone are partners at Oakland’s Overlook Lounge and Kachingwe is a co-owner of Hatch. On Saturday, Aug. 25, 7th West celebrates its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon, followed by music and dancing through the night with Full Out Studios, DJs Aari and Trevor Molyneux and Hella Pinay. 7th West, 1255 Seventh St. (at Union), Oakland

Bag O’ Crab will bring Asian-style Cajun seafood boil to Center Street in Berkeley. Photo: Sarah Han

MORE CENTER STREET NEWS While we’re talking about Center Street, here’s some news of upcoming restaurants opening on the block. First, in the old Slider Bar (2124 Center St.) will be Bag O’ Crab, what appears to be an Asian Cajun-style seafood boil spot. Signs on the outside of the restaurant have clues of what’s to come: choose-your-own seafood — a choice of crawfish, Dungeness crab, shrimp, snow crab and lobster, boiled in a spicy mala broth flavored with Sichuan pepper, chiles, dried herbs and spices — to crack, peel and eat. Bag O’ Crab is currently hiring staff, but a quick peek inside an open door yesterday revealed the space is still in construction mode, so don’t expect to eat there just yet. Second, there’ll be pizza on the block again soon. Nosh tipster Sean Rouse shared a photo of a change of ownership notice from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control that shows that a business from Center Pizzeria, LLC will also be coming to the former Sliver space (2132 Center St.), which means that it will be permitted to serve beer, wine and distilled spirits.We reached out to the owners of these businesses for more details, but have not received responses at time of publication. Finally, a new Chinese restaurant has been approved to open at 2142 Center St. Paul Lew, a contact for the new restaurant confirmed that the restaurant will open in the space now occupied by Guacamole 61. We’ll add more details as we get them.

GOODBYE, OLD BROOKLYN Uptown Oakland’s Old Brooklyn Café & Bakery (2228 Broadway) has closed, as first reported by Hoodline, meaning that the local bagel shop has officially shuttered all of its locations. Old Brooklyn closed its first location in Rockridge at the end of April. In early May, CEO Richard Le told Nosh that increased rent, labor and food cost, as well as competition, were the cause for the closure, and referred customers to its Uptown café on Broadway. Le gave no indication that this spot would close anytime soon, too. We reached out to Le for comment, but have not yet heard a response. Hoodline reports new tenants are already in the Old Brooklyn space — Vietnamese restaurant Le Pho (which has an outpost at 2501 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley) is currently open for business.

APPLE OF OUR EYE This Saturday, Aug. 25, the UC Botanical Garden is hosting Apples & Hops, an all-day event and a fundraiser for Education at the UC Botanical Garden. From 2-5 p.m., the fest features a beer garden with local beers and ciders from Fort Point, Ocean View Brew Works, AppleGarden Farm and Gilman Brewing; apple and apple cider tastings; free snacks, including Peter’s Kettle Corn, Firebrand pretzels and Donut Savant apple donuts; kid’s activities; live music from Jubilee & The King Street Giants; access to the botanical garden; food for purchase from Coolinaria Taco Truck; and a free glass designed by Erin McCluskey Wheeler. Tickets for the first part of fest are $75 ($25 for youth). For $125, upgrade your ticket to access the evening (5:30-7 p.m.) part of the festival, featuring a spirits tasting room with apple-based beverages and other spirits from Mosswood, Raff Distillerie, Spirit Works Distillery, San Francisco Mead Company, and Vignette Wine Country Soda and a taco plate from Coolinaria, plus a concert with Oakland indie rock band, Rogue Wave in the botanical garden’s redwood grove. Apples & Hops, a Garden Festival, takes places at the UC Botanical Garden, 200 Centennial Dr., Berkeley

THE BOWL RUSH Colorado Rush Bowls, a chain offering “meals-in-a-bowl” just opened its first California location in Berkeley. Rush Bowls on Addison Street opened on Monday, Aug. 20, and offers menu items like bowls of fresh fruit and frozen yogurt or açaí topped with granola and honey and smoothies, made with fruit and vegetables. Franchise owner Kenny Noori is a Bay Area resident who moved to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 2009, and formerly operated a car dealership before getting into the açaí bowl business. Rush Bowls, 1935 Addison St. (between Milvia and MLK), Berkeley

CHEESE BOARD FUNDRAISER If you’ve ever craved Cheese Board Pizza on a Sunday and then cursed yourself for forgetting it’s closed that day, you’ll want to hear this: This Sunday, Aug. 26, Cheese Board will be open from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., and better yet, for a worthy cause. All proceeds from sales of pizza, salad and soft serve that afternoon will go to the Bay Area Immigration Bond Fond, a nonprofit that works to keep detained immigrant families together and raises money to help individuals post bond and secure their release. The Cheese Board, 1512 Shattuck Ave. (at Vine), Berkeley

Black Bull Tacos y Cerveza in Alameda has closed. Photo: Black Bull Tacos

NO MORE BULL Black Bull Tacos y Cerveza in Alameda has decided to call it quits. Last Friday, the restaurant, located at 1635 Park St., posted a note to customers on Facebook that it would be closing the next day. Black Bull was opened in Dec. 2017 by the owners of another Alameda restaurant, Scolari’s Good Eats, and was headed by chef Brian Boyd, who offered tacos made with high-quality ingredients and creative fillings like marinated duck hearts, fried avocado and pork belly pibil. While Black Bull Tacos was a popular place to eat, some diners felt the prices were too steep for the neighborhood. In the Facebook post, the restaurant said it may pop up “from time to time in town.”


NEW EATS IN EL CERRITO Meanwhile in El Cerrito, Cigar Box Kitchen opened on San Pablo Avenue in late July. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant-bar offers a fairly curated menu with a mix of homestyle diner offerings with gourmet flourishes. For example, the menu offers standard breakfast dishes, sandwiches and salads, but a few have interesting additions you wouldn’t expect from a run-of-the-mill diner, like Brussels sprouts with chili aioli, grilled asparagus with Maldon butter, a salad made with seasonal lettuces and house-cut fries which you can dress up with truffle oil. Refreshments include coffee and espresso drinks, local craft beer, wine and a few other non-alcoholic beverages. Along with food and drinks, Cigar Box doubles as an entertainment venue, hosting open mic and live acoustic performances. Cigar Box Kitchen, 10064 San Pablo Ave. (near Central), El Cerrito