Bites: Pollara brings pizza al taglio to Fourth Street, Chaat Café has closed

Pollara on Fourth Street in Berkeley.
Pollara on Fourth Street in Berkeley. Photo: Pollara Pizzeria

PIZZA AL TAGLIO ON FOURTH STREET Over the weekend, Jon and Kayta Smulewitz fired up the ovens at Pollara for a test run at a private friends-and-family event, before officially opening to the public Tuesday. Pollara is the fast-casual, Fourth Street sister restaurant to the Smulewitz’s Sicilian sit-down restaurant Dopo on Piedmont Avenue. As Kayta Smulewitz told Nosh back in May, Pollara offers pizza al taglio, a rectangular pan-pizza inspired by Italian chef Gabriele Bonci, who popularized the style at Pizzarium in Rome and Bonci in Chicago. Pollara displays its changing offerings in a 9-foot display case, where diners order portions by weight. Service is like a deli, with customers taking a number tag from a dispenser near the door. The menu offers 10 pies, such as a simple Margherita; Diavola (spicy salame and fresh mozzarella); figs with marscapone and rosemary; and cacio e pepe (pecorino, black pepper and ricotta). Aside from pizza, there are antipasti, like arugula, farro and chickpea salads and fried snacks, like supplì classico (Roman-style arancini, made with rice, tomato and mozzarella) and crocchetta (mashed potatoes, prosciutto and grana). Pollara Pizzeria, 1788 Fourth St. (at Delaware), Berkeley

Berkeley's Chaat Café closed after 20 years on University Avenue.
Berkeley’s Chaat Café closed after 20 years on University Avenue. Photo: Sarah Han

GOODBYE, BERKELEY CHAAT CAFÉ We’re sad to report that longtime family-owned restaurant Chaat Café in Berkeley closed Aug. 29. Located at 1902 University Ave., Chaat Café was a dependable and affordable go-to for many locals who craved its Indian street fare, including pani puri, samosas, cholay bhature, along with naan wraps, tandoori plates and curries made with halal meats, seasonal produce and housemade sauces. Chaat Café was opened in 1999 by Narinder and Kiran Mahal, who are also behind the location in Fremont. In 2008, with help from their son Ameet, the Mahals expanded the business with a franchise program that led to new Chaat Cafés in Dublin and San Jose. In an email to Nosh, Kiran Mahal said the family decided to close the Berkeley restaurant “because the landlord only wanted to give us a five-year lease. We wanted at least another five-year option to plan for the future. They also raised expenses by $2,500. So we made the call to quit. It’s difficult to pay high minimum wage and rent.” Mahal said the family will not be opening again in Berkeley.

Riceful owners Kai Tang and Tiffany Chen.
Riceful co-owners Kai Tang and Tiffany Chen with an Aji Fish Onigiri. Photo: Sarah Han

RICEFUL SOFT OPENS On Saturday, Riceful had its soft opening in Southside Berkeley. Owned and operated by married couple Kai Tang and Tiffany Chen, Riceful specializes in Okinawan onigiri, a heartier version of Japanese rice balls. Tang told Nosh that he and Chen had been wanting to open a restaurant for a few years, and had originally considered an eatery focused on cold noodles. After some research, they decided on Okinawan onigiri, a snack food that is growing in popularity in Japan and Taiwan. They also considered that the rice and seaweed sandwiches would be a convenient grab-and-go food that can be offered for a fairly low price.

During the soft opening, prices range from $5.50 for the classic Okinawa Onigiri (with Spam and fried egg) to $9.25 for the Unagi Onigiri (a seasonal item with grilled freshwater eel). All sandwiches  — which are the size of a burger and are reminiscent of a fully-loaded musubi — come loaded with Spam and egg, but Chen said, based on customer feedback, they’ll consider new menu items, including vegetarian and even vegan fillings. During the soft opening period, Riceful will open at 11 a.m., but Tang said hours may fluctuate as the couple works out kinks in the operation. He also said based on feedback so far, they may drop prices slightly, although they’ll generally hover around $6-7, as many ingredients are imported from Japan. Expect a grand opening in about a week. Riceful, 2435 Durant Ave. (near Telegraph), Berkeley 


The storefront of Savory Kitchen, a new all-day breakfast spot on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.
Savory Kitchen, a new all-day breakfast spot on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. Photo: Sean Rouse

MORE CAL ADJACENT EATS Three more updates on restaurants near UC Berkeley:

We missed this one in our recent August restaurant openings roundup: iSlice opened a new outpost on Bancroft Way on Southside just in time for the arrival of hungry Cal students. Owner Shiv Gurung opened the first location on lower Solano Avenue in 2017, following up with a second location in Concord last year. iSlice specializes in New York-style thin-crust pizza, sold by the slice and by the pie, but also serves up calzones, a simple side salad and desserts. iSlice, 2456 Bancroft Way (between Telegraph and Dana), Berkeley

Last week, eagle-eye Nosh tipster Sean Rouse spotted the doors open at Savory Kitchen, a new counter-service eatery in Berkeley’s Southside neighborhood, opened in the former Juice Originz space on Telegraph Avenue. Savory Kitchen offers all-day breakfast (two eggs any style, omelets, a breakfast burrito and a frittata), along with panini and a salad of the day. With its location near Cal, Savory Kitchen boasts wallet-friendly prices, with most items under $8. Savory Kitchen, 2493 Telegraph Ave. (at Dwight), Berkeley

Less than a year after opening, Maitiki Island BBQ & Brew at 1828 Euclid Ave. in Berkeley’s Northside neighborhood has closed. This was its second Bay Area location for the SoCal-based Hawaiian BBQ chain; the first franchise in San Jose is still running. A neighboring business told Nosh that the restaurant cleared out of the space at the end of August.

Whitney Singletary of Nuttin' Butter Cookies in Berkeley.
Whitney Singletary of Nuttin’ Butter Cookies in Berkeley. Photo: Nuttin’ Butter Cookies

NUTS ABOUT COOKIES While cruising down Dwight Avenue in Berkeley, you may have spotted what looks like a bright blue Cookie Monster-like character trying to get you to stop at an outdoor booth. What you’ve witnessed is one of the charming, very DIY pop-ups from Nuttin’ Butter Cookies, a cottage food business from baker Whitney Singletary. Using a peanut butter cookie recipe from her great great great grandmother, Singletary has adapted it, mixing in a variety of organic nut butters, including pecan, almond, walnut, pistachio, chestnut, Brazil nuts and cashew. Baking out of her certified home kitchen, Singetary will be bringing batches, baked fresh daily, to her new store (in the former Angelic of Berkeley store) from 3-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Nuttin’ Butter Cookies is celebrating with a grand opening celebration from 4-7 p.m., Sept. 9. Nuttin’ Butter Cookies, 2521 San Pablo Ave. (at Dwight), Berkeley

ONE MORE CHAI Last June, Nosh reported that the owners of Chai Thai Noodles and Saap Avenue would be bringing a new restaurant to the ground floor at Berkeley’s Higby Apartments on San Pablo at Ashby. Recently, we got an update from owner Thomas Manyvong, who said in an email, “After 2 years of planning and waiting for permits, we are finally ready to open at the end of September. We will be open as Chai Thai Noodles.” Currently, Chai Thai is a neighborhood favorite in Oakland (just east of the lake) and in Hayward, where it offers solid Thai and Lao fare — noodles, of course, but also curries, soups, salads and stir-fried entrees — at reasonable prices (sister restaurant Saap Avenue on Piedmont serves Lao small bites and cocktails). Chai Thai Noodles will be at 3015 San Pablo Ave. (at Ashby), Berkeley

The Brunch Poutine at Augie's Montreal Deli in Berkeley.
The Brunch Poutine at Augie’s Montreal Deli in Berkeley. Photo: Augie’s Montreal Deli

CANADIAN BRUNCH Over in West Berkeley, Augie’s Montreal Deli is serving up Brunch Poutine on weekends. What’s that, you wonder? It’s a new dish on Augie’s new-ish brunch menu launched this summer, featuring red potato home fries, cheese curds, white gravy, smoked meat and an egg (fried, scrambled or poached — your choice). Other just-on-the-weekends dishes include breakfast sandwiches, on a toasted bagel from Baron Baking or toasted rye bread from Metropolis Baking Company, with fried egg, aged cheddar and cream cheese; a Canadian omelet with cherry tomatoes, cream cheese and onions; and rye bread latkes with poached eggs and dill sour cream. Most items do — or can, with an add-on — include some form of Augie’s signature smoked meat or smoked salmon. Drinks include coffee, OJ, and yes, mimosas. Brunch happens from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Augie’s Montreal Deli, 875 Potter St. (between Seventh and Fifth), Berkeley