Oliveto is hands down my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area.
Recently the unthinkable has happened: CHANGE.
But, like everything else Oliveto does, it was done with grace. The downstairs cafe has been renovated. There are new tables, new dishware (goodbye my beloved earthenware!), Italian salumi hanging cases, and a three-group 1963 E61 Faema espresso machine, the gold standard of espresso machines for quality and beauty.
Rather than giving the downstairs cafe guests the leftovers from Paul Canales’ unbelievable, beautiful, rotating seasonally, traditional Italian menu, the new Oliveto Cafe will sport a distinct style of its own. Chef Pierre Harriet, chef de cuisine at Oliveto together with pastry chef Jenny Raven, have developed a menu of “la cucina povera” of Italy: simple, real, savory foods with great depth of flavor, inspired by regional farm and town kitchens, cafes, and bakeries.
Last night was my third meal in the new Cafe. I. and I shared garden lettuces vinaigrette, panzanella, and squid antipasti. I’ve always loved the panzanella at Oliveto, but Chef Harriet has added a new spin and I like it. I also particularly appreciated the addition of finely diced celery to the squid marinade. For our main course we shared the fontina, chicken, rosemary, and prosciutto panini and a cold spaghetti with bread crumbs, tomatoes, and Parmesan. It was all delicious. The service is being ramped up downstairs too (the expertise and grace of the servers upstairs has been a huge draw for me to Oliveto since I came upon it for the first time). It was a perfect simple supper for a Tuesday night. I had a lovely fruity glass of Gamay, which was light enough for me to still bang out about 100 pages of reading before bed.
Go and support our lovely neighbors at Oliveto. We are all better fed, feted, and civilized for their presence.
Brava! Brava! Brava!