Restaurant Review: Corso Trattoria

The menu at Corso screams of Italy and I had the luxury of going with a large group of people that allowed me to try a broader selection of dishes. The menu reads exactly like one you would find in Italy with the items broken down into sections of  Antipasti (appetizer),  Primi (pasta), Secondi (main), and Controni (dessert).  There wasn’t one item that we ordered off the menu that wasn’t good and I hope that doesn’t discredit me as a food critic.

For our Antipasti course we had the marinated olives, hand stretched to order house made Mozzarella, and the chef’s selection of house cured salumi. I’m a sucker for sulumi and it’s always a luxury to try the house cured meats and the selection at Corso doesn’t disappoint. They do have a house- cured Prosciutto that I can’t wait to try on my next visit.  For our Primi course we had a wonderful Tagliatelle al sugo with slow braised beef and pork that goes down as one my favorites, and a Strozzapreti with littleneck clams, squash blossoms, and house-made sausage that was hearty and satisfying.  The risotto bianco with white asparagus and truffle oil was tasty but a little dry for my taste.  For the Secondi course we had Costine di maiale, slow- braised pork ribs with a chestnut and honey “barbecue sauce” that had a hint of sticky sweetness that was good, but how can you go wrong with a slow- braised pork dish.  Something that is a bit more technical and one of my favorites to order anytime I see it on the menu is a whole roasted Branzino.  The bass is simply prepared by roasting it in the oven whole until the delicate meat flakes off of the bones and then it’s served with a little lemon and arugula.  So simple, so satisfying, and so Italian.

The ambiance and the decor in the dining room are a little underwhelming and the focus is definitely on the food. I would highly recommend Corso for people looking for the authentic flavors of regional Italian food that is reminiscent of one of your past trips to Italy. The compact selection of all Italian wines are a perfect match to go alongside the Florence inspired menu and the staff is attentive and helpful and ready to make suggestions.

Corso Trattoria: 1788 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, Ca 94709, 510-704-8004

Restaurant Review: Gather

Gather is a great newcomer to the East Bay restaurant scene. I came in for a quick bite and I’ll be back to dive further into the menu at which time I’ll write a more detailed review after my return visit.  There’s a large selection of vegetarian options and everything leans towards being very local and “beyond” organic.  I tried a very tasty Prather Ranch burger and one of the thin crust wood fired seasonal pizzas with green garlic. I also sampled the Burrata appetizer that was very good and reminded me of sitting outside in Italian cafe.  One of the items on the menu I’ll be back to try is the vegan “charcuterie”.

The restaurant has an open concept and it was buzzing on the Sunday night that I was there. There is a lot of curved wood with iron accents in the dining room with a modern- industrial look and high ceilings. Service is efficient and attentive without being overbearing.

I can’t wait to return and explore the rest of the menu. I recommend Gather for a group of people that can order a variety of items to share, or for people looking to order drinks and appetizers before a show, but not the best place if your looking for a quite romantic dinner.

Gather: 2200 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94704, 510-809-0400

Spring Redux

Summer is being stubborn this year as it awaits it’s grand entrance. The spring produce is hanging around for a bit longer in the Bay Area which means we’re still seeing fava beans, English peas, spring garlic, spring onions, ramps, fiddlehead ferns, and morel mushrooms in the markets.

Waiting in the wings are cherries, apricots, peaches, melons, corn, tomatoes and all of the wonderful sun-kissed summer produce.  I know that winter will eventually end and we’ll be enjoying the summer produce soon.

I wonder what this unusual weather is doing to the wine grapes.