Oakland, September 28, 2010—
ANOTHER DAY IN Berkeley and, later, Oakland: a chance for another Perfect Sandwich (mortadella and galantina on a buttered ciabatta roll with a little chopped lettuce); then a fine dinner with friends at a restaurant we patronize far too rarely. Oliveto has been around for a number of years; I don't recall who was the first chef; the second was, memorably, Paul Bertolli, before then at Chez Panisse, subsequently on to do his own things. Now the chef is our friend Paul Canales, who combines so many of the essentials: intelligence, seriousness of purpose, good humor, impressive technique, and focus.
I started with carne cruda, knowing (or at least strongly suspecting, nearly as good) that it would have been made from a razza Piemontese steer. In fact I'm sure it was; it had that uniquely sweet beefy soft but not fat quality I've associated with the breed. Paul served it with a small raw egg-yolk on top, nicely peppered, dressed with Parmesan, and surrounded by a halo of very finely chopped walnuts whose own sweetness complemented the beef perfectly.
We had an unexpected entremet, a plate of spaghettini with beautifully sautéed "Lipstick" red peppers generously dusted with finely chopped tuna heart; and then I went on to a plate of stradette, rectangles of pasta made with corn flour — the corn an heirloom Italian variety that's being grown in California's delta country somewhere — served with a thick sauce involving braised leeks and radicchio and aged Provolone. This was an amazing dish, the hard dent corn still recognizable by its taste and hardness, though nicely softened first by being turned into perfectly cooked pasta, then veiled with that intense and, let's face it, rich sauce.
Chocolate cake for dessert. It was a birthday meal.
Vermentino di Gallura, Piero Mancini, Sardinia 2009