Archive for December, 2011

Winter Solstice Report from Brookside Farm


After a particularly beautiful batch of Brookside Farm‘s Meyer lemons arrived last week, we followed up with Welling Tom to find out what else is going on at their Brentwood, CA farm. Here’s what he had to tell us:

Our Meyer lemons are some of the few things we currently have available. We also have a few Oroblanco pomelos already picked, and available as long as supplies last. Growing in the field, we have fava beans, green garlic (now available), broccoli, and Lacinato kale. Fava beans are a slow-growing crop, and will not mature until April or May. The cole crops (broccoli and kale) have been producing since October, but not quite as much as we had hoped. A major problem has been the Bagrada bug, an invasive species of beetle that was not found in the western United States until 2008. So far, Brookside Farm has not taken any measures to combat this pest. Aside from that, there all the usual pests like gophers and cabbage moths.

Continue reading ‘Winter Solstice Report from Brookside Farm’

Making the Season Bright

Last night this happened in the Oliveto kitchen:

Vocal Rush, from the Oakland School for the Arts stopped by. They’re raising money to get to the International High School A Cappella Championship competition in Portland, later in January. Find them at

Add to that the fact that we are roasting chestnuts & serving mulled cider on the sidewalk (3:ish-6:30ish every afternoon except Thursdays through Dec. 31), the appearance of eggnog ice cream on the dessert menu, and having sufficiently decked the halls…it’s beginning to look (and sound & smell & taste!) a lot like Christmas.

Chef Jonah At One Year

This Friday, December 16th will mark the 25th anniversary of Oliveto Cafe and Restaurant. More personally, we are celebrating Chef Jonah’s first year as Oliveto Executive Chef. We thought we’d take a moment to give you our impression on this past year.

What Chef Jonah Rhodehamel has accomplished in one year here at Oliveto doesn’t seem possible. Unless you consider: Jonah is the hardest working chef we’ve ever seen. Up until a few months ago (when he began taking a day off here and there), he worked seven days a week, many of them 16-hour days. And that work has been so well directed that every minute seemed productive. The focus and energy, complemented by Jonah’s skill, experience, curiosity, and innate creativity, brought a clarity of purpose and direction which transformed the kitchen and menu, as well as enlivening the Oliveto Café downstairs. And those characteristics have brought a quality that is utterly essential: consistency.

Chef Jonah has the ability to be creative and fresh while meeting (or exceeding) the expectations of guests (many of whom are returning after a several-year-long absence), and at the same time keeping within the general, albeit grandiose, Oliveto philosophy of food based on the best seasonal local ingredients, cooked within the Italian idiom and Italian principles of cooking. Even for Jonah, with his considerable internal drive, and whose experience is consistent with Oliveto’s demands, the job was a big one. But the results after one year have been quite remarkable. Some customers describe his cooking as more delicate. Others say the dishes sparkle with their pristine ingredients, while others feel that his cooking really gets at the essence of traditional Italian dishes such as agnolotti dal plin or walnut sformatino or vitello tonnato.

We are often perplexed and find ourselves wondering, “how did he do that? How could he know that? He’s only 28 years old”. Continue reading ‘Chef Jonah At One Year’

It’s hard to toot your own horn & pat yourself on the back at the same time but here goes…


Just five months after Chef Jonah began creating his kitchen and a menu that reflected his vision at Oliveto, Michael Bauer wrote a review in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “Oliveto: Oakland Restaurant Bounces Back.” It was the first of a number of laudatory articles. Jonah’s most recent review, a feature article by Stephen Buel in the latest (December 2011) Oakland Magazine, was titled “In Good Hands: Get to Know Oliveto’s New Chef.”

Preceding that article were Diablo Magazine’s Best Restaurant in the East Bay award for 2011, and an accompanying article by Susan Dowdney Safipour and Ethan Fletcher in the September 2011 edition which stated that Jonah Rhodehamel has taken Oliveto’s passions and turned them into “creative, cutting-edge food.”

Patricia Unterman, who’s seen and experienced the whole of Oliveto’s 25-year existence, titled her October 2011 piece in the San Francisco Examiner, “Old-World Values Cultivate Exquisite Dining at Oliveto,” and returned not long after the article ran to enjoy Jonah’s spit-roasted sheep, one of her husband’s favorite dishes.

Three cheers for Chef Jonah! Toot toot. Pat pat.

New Year’s Eve at Oliveto


The panini tartufati of Procacci in Florence

Most nights at Oliveto, we offer large menus with many choices. New Year’s Eve being a rare opportunity for the Chef to put together a prix fixe menu which combines earthiness and elegance, celebration and deliciousness, and a logic to bind the meal together (perhaps evocative of a place or time). We asked Chef Jonah Rhodehamel what we should do for New Year’s Eve.


The Inspiration
On this year’s trip to Italy, we brought back a good quantity of truly exceptional white truffles for our November truffle dinners. They were so fresh that the one or two we’d saved for friends who were out of town, are still fairly pungent and healthy. Impressed by the quality of this year’s truffles, Chef Jonah decided to save some of them for our New Year’s Eve dinner by employing the best way to preserve their initial potency: he mortared them, combined them with sweet creamery butter, then froze them.


The panini tartufati of Procacci, Florence’s beautiful old food shop, are little brioche sandwiches filled with truffle butter. This became the starting point from which Chef Jonah began to devise a menu. To the panini he added risotto alla Milanese, and, of course, if you’re going to serve risotto alla milanese, then you’ve got to also serve osso buco.

The Specs:

Early seating
5:00 to 6:30
Panini tartufati and three courses:
with wine pairings $130.

Late seating
7:30 to 10:00
Panini tartufati and four courses (scallops course added)
with wine pairings $155.

Phone reservations ONLY