Sunday, December 7, 2008


When I think of Italian food, pasta and meat dishes come to mind, not pizza joints. There are more pizza places in Alameda than true Italian restaurants. Pizza is Italian, but it is not Italian cuisine. Therefore, I did not include pizza places even though they may serve pasta and meat. My personal opinion is that the real Italian establishments are C'era Una Volta and Acquacotta.

Acquacotta is the new restaurant in the neighborhood. The owner is the only chef on the block with pedigree training who has worked at famous and popular bay area restaurants. The space is somewhat dark with caramel and rustic color schemes. Salads were typical and predictable in flavor profiles. There is an appetizer that I tried twice and was disappointed each time. It was the Arancini, saffron risotto balls filled with fontina cheese in the middle. When you see the item on the menu, it sounds absolutely delicious. When the appetizer comes to the table, you see these deep fried balls and think it will be tasty and it's not. The taste of the rice balls are a little bland with the essence of saffron. The fontina cheese in the middle is hot and gooey, but it doesn't help in the taste of the dish. I thought it was a miss each time. Soups were hearty with fresh vegetable ingredients. The pasta dishes were delicious and bold in flavors. The pasta was surprisingly a dry pasta and not made fresh on the premises. The sauces were flavorful and complimented the pasta type. My only comment about this restaurant is the cost of the wine. The first time I had a meal here, the alcohol amount was more than the food cost. The restaurant is still working on improving the dessert menu and in the future wants to produce fresh pasta in the kitchen. I highly recommend coming here for a rustic Italian dinner. We just have to wait until they hire a dessert chef. You may want to call ahead and ask if you are allowed to bring your own bottle of wine.

C'era Una Volta has come around for me. When the restaurant first opened, I was not a fan. The food lacked taste. Over the years, the flavor combinations have greatly improved. One of my favorites is the pappardelle with the meat sauce. The eggplant parmesan is also good. The cannelloni is delicious for a few bites and then it becomes too rich due to the ricotta cheese. The gnocchi is a tasty dish, but it depends upon the sauce. Truffles are awesome with gnocchi. The meat sauce with gnocchi was a miss. The desserts still need help. I have not been able to have a wonderful dessert here. I will keep on waiting. This restaurant probably has the best Italian wine selection of the entire island. The staff is highly knowledgeable and know the tasting notes of each wine. The space is bright on the main floor with interesting art pieces on the walls. The second floor has a completely different atmosphere. The second floor can be a little dim with insufficient lighting to read the menu. Upstairs is not as decorated compared to the main floor, and the view to watch the action below is nonexistent. You get a great view of the ceiling and art work. This place is worth coming back to. The staff is more than happy to assist in any food cravings the customer is looking for.

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