2016 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Belli Osteria opened in October of 2012 as an upscale establishment by Paul Oprescu, who comes from southern California but spent his early childhood in Romania. The food here is absolutely delightful. Oprescu creates his ravioli mini-masterpieces and pastas with a lot of mushrooms, about six different kinds from chanterelles to porcini, so he has meaty vegetarian options. You may also find some options with a hint of saffron as it sometimes mixed in with the dough. Also, pay attention to notes of Mexican flavors intertwined with Italian tastes. Oprescu even crafted the tables and original woodwork himself while his brother designed the hot-blooded and wine-driven décor.
Related: Best Italian Food in San Francisco
2020 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
Comal’s John Paluska, who managed the band Phish, opened this casual Mexican restaurant and bar, which stands next to Belli Osteria. If you are feeling social and talkative, the 45-year-old Paluska put in state-of-the-art sound so while the place is spacious, airy and warmly lit to make it convivial, it’s quiet and relaxing enough to enjoy a conversation even in a big group. If you love the look of natural wood and sitting near a fire, a counter around the open kitchen with 10 roasting chickens on spits gives patrons a tantalizing front row seat. Paluska also built a secluded patio in back with a fire pit. Chef Matt Gandin has a world of experience as well as a formal culinary education in San Francisco.
2319 Santa Clara Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
American Oak is a creation of Alameda-native Melanie Hartman. The beef burger with cheddar at $13 and free-range roast chicken at $15.50 have become favorites along with over 200 whiskies at the bar. Hartman should know her clientele’s tastes as she tended bar for 10 years around Alameda. Alameda is an old-fashioned all-American beach town full of picturesque Victorians and tree-lined streets perfect for cruising on a bicycle. The locals enjoy a little change of scenery in the saloon-like dark wood and dim lighting at American Oak.
Hopscotch Restaurant and Bar
1915 San Pablo Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
Hopscotch, a new 1950’s diner and bar with a nostalgic marble countertop, checkered floor and red bar stools and chairs, opened in the summer of 2012. It’s a partnership between Jenny Schwarz and Kyle Itani, who met while working at Yoshi’s. Schwarz and Itani serve seasonal food with local ingredients, including soul food such as fried chicken. Itani infuses American classics with Japanese flavor, such as the eggs benedict made with jidori eggs, miso hollandaise, maitake mushrooms and sage on a baguette for $11. Try the brunch, happy hour or one of the pop-up series of restaurants who open the place on Mondays when Hopscotch closes.
105 Town and Country Drive
Danville, CA 94526
Santorini brings Mediterranean food to an area with mostly Chinese, Mexican and Italian, courtesy of Tony Sohi and David Badrkhani. Santorini cooks healthy and grills everything. The menu features lamb shank and for its signature pomegranate chicken, infuses a half-roasted chicken with pomegranate molasses marinade and herbs. Santorini bakes its own flatbread and serves it right out of the oven with tabouli sauce upon guests’ arrival. The recipe came through the generations to co-owner Tony Sohi’s parents in their village of Soh, in the outskirts of Isfahan, an ancient Persian city.
Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.