BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Some are saying that “Gourmet Ghetto,” the colloquial name of a North Berkeley neighborhood that’s home to great and famous restaurants, is so offensive that it should be changed.
The 1600 block of Shattuck in North Berkeley is lined with fabulous restaurants such as Crepevine, Cesar’s, Dara’s and, of course, the world famous Chez Panisse. The use of the term “ghetto” in the name was once whimsical, but not anymore.
“In the last few decades, it’s been a term that describes certain neighborhoods that primarily, like people of lower income, especially black people, African American people, uh, have been living in,” explained Nick Cho, owner of Wrecking Ball Coffee.
Chez Panisse founder Alice Waters came out against the name recently. She said she never liked it nor the idea of naming an entire neighborhood after it.
Meanwhile, down the street at Cheese Board Pizza, people had differing opinions about the name. Pizza customer Stephen Mello said, “Sign of the times. People want to be more sensitive with their words.”
Tucked between fine restaurants is the shop Emilia Flowers. Owner Maryam Bloori was surprised.
“For a long time, I didn’t know what ‘ghetto’ meant, so I checked it out and it means ‘neighborhood.’ But I know it’s got a negative connotation to it, but I never think of it as a negative thing,” Bloori said.
“I understand the sensitivity on that so [if] we can come up with a better term, that would be fine with me,” said Steve Manning, who works at Cheese Board.
Pizza Customer Stephen Mello offered a suggestion. “Let’s see, it could go like ‘Bistro Boulevard.’”
Bloori hadn’t thought about a new name much. “I have no idea! Uh, North Berkeley?”
Young Cid Frydman didn’t mind the current name, saying, “The Gourmet Ghetto? I think it sounds good. I think it rhymes and it had two G’s, so it’s catchy.”
The neighborhood association will consider the matter at its next meeting.