GOODBYE ALEGIO After 16 years at Berkeley’s mini gourmet food-mall, Epicurious Garden, Alegio Chocolaté closed on Saturday, March 2. The shop, co-owned by Panos Panagos and Robbin Everson, carried products made by renowned “tree-to-bar” maker, Claudio Corallo. Alegio’s second retail store in Palo Alto (and the store’s online shop) will remain open.
Nosh spoke with Panagos earlier this week, who said it was a difficult decision to close the original Gourmet Ghetto location, but that it made the most business sense. “I’m tired. It takes a lot of work to keep two shops at the same time, and not neglect one.” Panagos, who is 65 and who worked as a television producer in Europe and the U.S. before opening Alegio in 2003, said he had thought he’d stop working at 61, but kept the Berkeley store open for four more years because of his emotional attachment to it. Panagos opened Alegio after a tumultuous period of his life, when his marriage and his tv career ended, but his young son’s dream about a chocolate waterfall and a friend who told him chocolate was the “next big thing” convinced him to start over in a new field. Alegio is named after his two kids, Alexander and Giorgio. Panagos also credits Epicurious Garden landlord, Soheyl Modarressi, who took a chance on him as a first-time business owner.
Alegio is the sole U.S. distributor of Corallo’s chocolates. The store offered chocolate tasting tours as a way of introducing people to Corallo’s chocolate including the process of making bars from cacao pods grown at his own plantation on the West African island country of São Tomé and Príncipe.
In 2012, Panagos and Everson opened a second shop in Palo Alto, when they realized that 23% of Alegio customers were coming to from Silicon Valley to buy chocolates at the Epicurious Garden. Nine years later, the second shop continues to do better business than the original store.
Since closing the Berkeley Alegio, Panagos hopes to pursue his creative interests in writing and film, although he said you’ll probably still find him at the Palo Alto store on weekends. As for what’s to come in the now empty corner stand at the Epicurious Garden? Panagos said he has handed off the keys to Peter Rizos, owner of CheeseQuakes!, a cheesecake business that currently has a stand at the San Francisco Ferry Building. Stay tuned on Nosh for more details.
NEW BOOK FOR SAMIN NOSRAT Berkeley chef Samin Nosrat announced that she’s working on a new cookbook. The “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” author (and star of the Netflix show of the same name) said “What to Cook” will be another collaboration with illustrator Wendy MacNaughton, who created the charming illustrations and diagrams for their previous James Beard-award winning bestseller. “What to Cook” will be published by Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press and in her posting about it, Nosrat said the new book will be “beautiful, educational, functional, smart and most importantly, very, very fun!” At this time, a release date is not yet known, even by Nosrat herself, who said: “We all know I am a painfully slow writer, so please do not write to ask me when the book is coming. I promise everyone will know when I know!”
WHAT’S UP AT LALIME’S Several readers have emailed us about a change of ownership notice hanging on the building of Westbrae neighborhood favorite, Lalime’s in Berkeley. The Cal-Mediterranean restaurant, which first opened on Solano Avenue in 1985 and moved to Gilman Street three years later, has been owned by Cindy and Haig Krikorian, and according to Joan Simon, a representative from the restaurant, it still is.
“The change in ownership posting at Lalime’s is a technicality dealing with the company’s new investor that has no impact on the operations. Haig and Cindy are still very much the driving forces behind Lalime’s and can be found there regularly designing the menus, directing the kitchen, arranging the flowers and warmly greeting guests on a regular basis at dinner and at weekend brunch,” Simon wrote in an email.
Simon also shared that Lalime’s will be starting monthly themed dinners, starting this month with a three-course St. Patrick’s Day “Go Green” prix fixe dinner for $45, that features a starter of salmon tartare in smoked salmon parcels with fresh peas and butter lettuce salad; a main course of corned beef and cbbage with carrots and potato; and bread pudding with Bushmills whiskey sauce for dessert. Expect specials in April and May for Easter and Mother’s Day. Lalime’s is at 1329 Gilman St. (between Neilson and Tevlin), Berkeley
GUMBO TAKEOVER Mardi Gras is technically over, but the Fat Tuesday celebration continues at Oakland’s alaMar Kitchen this Saturday, March 9. From noon to 4 p.m., the restaurant will host chef Wanda Blake of Wanda’s Cooking, an Oakland-based pop-up focusing on Southern soul food. Blake, known to some as the “Queen of Gumbo,” will be offering an a la carte menu of specials, including two types of gumbo (the decadent Grandma’s Gumbo with blue crab, prawns, chicken, okra and smoked chicken sausage for $40 and Gumbo Zherbes, a vegetarian version made with greens and okra for $25, $7 by the cup), slices of king cake, cornbread and pepper chow chow. No reservations or tickets needed for this one-day event; just come in and order at the counter. alaMar Kitchen+ Bar, 100 Grand Ave. (between Webster and Valdez), Oakland
MAMA MIA As Nosh reported last month, Oakland’s modern Roman eatery Contrasto is closing soon. This week, Contrasto owner Alessandro Campitelli told Nosh his restaurant’s last day of service will be March 31. The chef-owner said he does not yet have a new spot for the restaurant, but he is looking forward to taking a break after 15 straight years of running a restaurant. For now, he’s focusing on other projects, including a series of cooking classes and wine-pairing dinners he hosts with sommelier Paul Robinson.
When Contrasto closes, a new Italian restaurant will take over the space. Eater reported it will be called Mama, a prix fixe Italian-American spot from Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis, the husband-wife owners of Bay Grape wine shop, located just down the way on Grand Avenue. When Mama opens this summer, it will serve affordable three-course suppers ($29) and an approachable list of wines. With its straightforward menu and a focus on hospitality, the restaurant hopes to become a regular haunt for the neighborhood. Mama will be at 388 Grand Ave. (between Perkins and Staten), Oakland
EMERYVILLE BRUNCHIN’ Four restaurants at the Public Market Emeryville are now serving brunch on weekends. From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., C Casa offers breakfast tacos, a carnitas and egg tostada and huevos rancheros. From 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Hot Italian serves a dedicated brunch menu, with flatbread pizzas topped with eggs and brunch cocktails. Diners will find brisket hash and eggs on the menu from 10 a.m. to noon at Pig in a Pickle. And Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement is serving up its signature rosemary fried chicken with waffles on weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or whenever the waffles sell out. Public Market Emeryville, 5959 Shellmound St., Emeryville
NEW VEGAN FARE AT CLASSIC CARS WEST Last month, Nosh reported Hella Vegan Eats, the popular queer-owned vegan restaurant that had a three-year stint at Classic Cars West, was asked to leave the venue by Feb. 28. Hella Vegan Eats served its last meals at the space on Feb. 24 and is currently crowdfunding to open a new spot. In the meantime, Classic Cars West owner Michael Sarcona had already tapped a new vegan chef to take over the kitchen. This Friday, March 8, the venue is hosting a “reboot” event from 6 to 10 p.m., when chef Adina Butler will debut her menu, featuring Creole-influenced rice bowls and several veg-friendly burgers. If you miss the launch party, you can get a taste of Butler’s cooking at the beer garden from 5 to 9 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday; noon to 10 p.m., Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Classic Cars West Beer Garden, 411 26th St. (between Telegraph and Broadway), Oakland