A Tasting with Alto Piemonte’s Brilliant Young Winemaker Cristiano Garella

We are great admirers of young winemaker Cristiano Garella. Considered a “whiz kid” by Wine Spectator, he quickly made his mark with outrageously good wines in the emerging region of Northern Piedmont. At the age of 23, he was made the winemaker of Tenute Sella, the most prominent winery in the region at that time, and manager of the whole estate a year later. Now 30, he is a consulting winemaker for a number of small producers in Northern Piedmont, and one in the Oltrepò Pavese.

“Cristiano is my kind of enologist,” says wine importer Oliver McCrum, “very technologically savvy but committed to making wines that express terroir through largely traditional techniques. He’s an amazing taster, too.”

This area is considered up-and-coming, but actually the area was producing Nebbiolo far before Barolo and Barbaresco became fashionable — in fact it is the original home of Nebbiolo, and these new wines are a reconnection to the area’s past and its long-held traditions, which are capable of producing beautiful, age-worthy reds with character.

We will be tasting four wines based on the delicate and complex Nebbiolo grape, coming from three different growing areas in Northern Piedmont — Bramaterra, Fara, and Lessona, all with varying soil types and terrain. These wines come from small, young wineries for which Garella consults: Le Pianelle, Boniperti, and La Prevostura. Garella makes wine organically, favoring a low-intervention approach with natural yeasts.

After the tasting, our menu upstairs will feature Garello’s wines by the glass and Piedmontese dishes, and Garella will be present to discuss his wines.
August 16th, 5:30 pm to 6:15 pm



By |July 30th, 2015|Coming up..., Commons, Events, Italy, Piedmont, Wine Events|Comments Off

Sunday Farmhouse Supper, August 2nd

Lazio (Roman Campagna)

Artichokes alla romana with breadcrumbs and Parmesan

Spaghetti all’amatriciana

Magruder beef saltimbocca with roasted potatoes


Whipped buffalo yogurt with summer fruit

Prix fixe $40.
Served family-style. For parties of one to twelve.

The whole table must order the prix fixe menu.
(Please note that wine and service charge are not included.)

Larger parties: please let us know at the time of your reservation if your table will be ordering the Sunday Supper menu so that we can plan accordingly. Thanks!

By |July 29th, 2015|2015, Coming up..., Sunday Farmhouse Supper|0 Comments

How We Got to a Great Burger

Mac Magruder’s animals have simply outstanding genetics and flavor. We showcase it as much as we can, and to this end we’ve been going through a whole steer from Magruder Ranch every three weeks. This is uncommon for restaurants to do, because it takes special planning and capabilities. Most places don’t have a meat locker, and it’s really difficult to use the whole beef efficiently.

We’re trying to use Mac’s meat throughout the restaurant and increasingly in the cafe (we have some big cafe plans we’ll tell you about soon), but utilization is so tough. This is when Chef Jonah’s hamburger zeal came to the fore – an American lad leapt out of a very fine Italian chef. What’s a great burger? Ask Jonah.

When it comes to burgers, Jonah has clear, strong convictions. He thinks that burgers should not be overly complex or frou-frou, with jalapenos or truffles or thingummies, and that ketchup, on its own, has no place on a burger for grown-ups. They should be what they are, and nothing more. And for that, certain things need to be in place.

Jonah’s Burger:
  • The beef itself has been seasoned throughout, with enough fat in it that it doesn’t need cheese.
  • The patty shouldn’t be flaccid or soggy, so we’re using cuts like brisket and short rib, which have gelatin in it and will give the patty good body.
  • We’re using a house-made Thousand Island-style dressing of ketchup, aioli, Dijon mustard, pickle, and red onion. It’s applied to the top half of the bun, so that the juice from the meat can drip into the bun.
  • The bun needs to be exceptional. We tried several bun recipes and found a challah we like that won’t fall apart easily. It’s fried in butter – not grilled, but fried so that the edges of the bun have a delicate crunch to it.
  • Jonah thinks burgers should always have a pickled component. We’re using pickled onions in a particular proportion to fresh onion.
  • A good, fresh butter lettuce finishes it off.

Our burger comes with either French fries fried in beef fat (that’s right, same animal) and laced with espelette and pimenton, or a fresh green salad spiky with vinegar.

Upstairs, we’re making this classic hamburger at lunchtime, Monday through Friday. Perhaps the best burger you will ever have, possibly life changing.

By |July 21st, 2015|Coming up..., Magruder Ranch, This Just In|0 Comments

July 19th Sunday Family Supper: Calabria

Small town of Verbicaro in Calabria, Italy. (photo from Rosetta Constantino of “My Calabria”)


July 19th, 2015


Mussels with Jimmy Nardello peppers and crostini

Penne arrabbiata with ‘nduja

Grilled swordfish with salmoriglio



Wild-yeasted black pepper cake with figs and saffron cream

Prix fixe $40.

Served family-style. For parties of one to twelve.
The whole table must order the prix fixe menu.
(Please note that wine and service charge are not included.)
Larger parties: please let us know at the time of your reservation if your table will be ordering the Sunday Supper menu so that we can plan accordingly. Thanks!

Call 510-547-5356 or reserve online.


By |July 16th, 2015|Coming up..., Sunday Farmhouse Supper|0 Comments

Our Way of Working With Whole Animals




Nowadays, we receive a steer from Mac Magruder’s ranch every three weeks or so, and we’ve fallen into a rhythm with the animals, using them in a practiced sequence of cuts.

Chef Jonah uses the hanging cuts first, before moving on to those cuts beneath fat caps. The first things we use with a new steer are the flaps, and skirt, flank, and hanger steaks pop up on the menu. From there, the hind and forequarters are taken in hand. Round is used, and then the sirloin, the tenderloin, until  finally we come to the prime cuts – rib eye, and NY strip. By this time, these steaks have aged three weeks. They age beautifully with the fat caps intact.

The cycle begins again when a new steer arrives in the kitchen.

Chef Jonah prefers steers (young males) to heifers (young cows) because heifers tend to be smaller framed, with more surface fat, and less marbling. Steers are the opposite.

They’re something of a treasure in our kitchen, and we’re starting to use more of it in our cafe. Look for house-made pastrami and other delicacies in the coming weeks.

This Just In: Albacore


For many people, albacore tuna is the best tasting of fish, and the first of the season has arrived, fresh from its migration to our side of the Pacific, tempted by the particular temperatures of our coastal waters right now, to our good fortune.

According to Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish Market, this tuna comes from the local fishery which extends from off our shore, up into the  Oregon coast. It’s all hand line-caught — the line is let out from the back of the fishing boat, and then pulled back in with its fish by hand, without the use of a rod and reel. It’s a seemingly simple, traditional method of catching fish.

We’ll be featuring albacore tuna on our menu throughout the season, which lasts for about three months. Because this is the very beginning of the season, tuna caught at this time is typically juvenile. Ours is young and small, and because it’s young, it’s very low in mercury. Chef Jonah is very happy with it.  On our menu tonight, we are serving:

  • Charcoal-grilled local albacore with eggplant crema, haricots verts, cherry tomatoes, and harissa
By |July 7th, 2015|Coming up..., This Just In, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Mutton of a Bygone Era



The mutton the cook Mrs. Patmore so proudly served on the Downton Abbey table is of a higher order rarely available to us, but it will be on the Oliveto menu tomorrow and Friday.

According to Mac Magruder, from whose ranch these animals have come, mutton (sheep over 1 year old) was once prized. But it suffered some unjust criticism during WWI and WWII, when sheep was raised primarily for wool, and some of what was sold as mutton was very old – several years, even. It was a time when all sheep was sold and eaten, due to the food shortages during that period.

After the wars, meat became the primary product again, and wool became secondary, so sheep began to be processed at a younger age. Mutton became rare, and its high regard was lost (a casualty of war).

So what we have here is an uncommon treat. The flavor will be deeper, the omega fatty acid content higher – the sort of meat that was once cherished over a century ago.

We’ve recently received four sheep from Magruder Ranch, one of which is particularly special and delicious. It’s a “wether”, a neutered male that’s been kept in the flock for a year and a half. Magruder’s sheep is generally processed at 6-8 months – a bit younger.

Here’s what we’re planning:

Chef Jonah will be smoking and curing the legs of the wether – like prosciutto – and they will be ready in five or six months. The rest of the wether – along with the three other Magruder yearlings we recently acquired – will be served in a trio upstairs. A portion of leg muscle from the younger yearlings will be cooked rare and served alongside tenderloin or loin and lamb chop.

Tortellini of lamb in lamb brodo will be featured on our menu too.


The Whole Peach: Tarts to Cocktails


Learn to make the most of stone fruit season with Pastry Chef Yakira Batres and Cocktail Chef Daniel Clayton. Taste peaches, plums, and nectarines that have just come to ripeness, and learn which varieties make the most sense for your baking or boozy ambitions. We’ll assemble galettes, a quintessential use for peaches and plums; then, learn how to make liqueurs, syrups, shrubs and bitters with what’s left over. Includes a stone fruit galette and summer cocktail tasting.
July 12th, 12 pm to 3 pm



By |June 30th, 2015|Commons Past Events|0 Comments

In the Wake of Oceanic Dinners



In the aftermath of our epic Oceanic Dinners, chef Jonah’s beginning to transition our menu to other savories. This week, look for farm egg in carrozza - eggs, gently poached in shell, but only just enough to be able to peel them. These are fried with a coating of Kennebec potato and served with house-cured bacon and watercress.


We’ll also start to have in some aged beef, as well as some very special lamb, from Magruder Ranch in the coming weeks.


For those of you craving something of the sea, we have a garganelli pasta with house-smoked trout and trout crema, as well as a pan-roasted sea bass with summer vegetables.
By |June 29th, 2015|2015, Coming up..., This Just In|0 Comments

Reveling in Oceanic Splendor


We continue to savor our recollections from last night, our first night of Oceanic Dinners, with its myriad perfumes of the sea. The menu rocks, sparkling with many delicacies. We particularly liked this cioppino, laden with rock cod, mussels, and cuttlefish, and lovingly and generously splashed with saffron aioli.


Other notes: the geoduck we have in for our frutti di mare is some of the best chef Jonah’s ever seen. This is served cold with Kushi oyster, monkfish torchon, house-smoked trout, cuttlefish, and Spanish mackerel. Accompanying are three sauces: a mignonette, a salsa rosa (a tomato-based cocktail sauce), and sea urchin aioli.


Also, our Oceanic Dinner dates have changed. This menu extends to Saturday! We hope to see you here soon.


By |June 24th, 2015|Coming up..., This Just In|0 Comments