Tag Archives: Italian

Trabocco is the perfect place for a girl’s night out

Review of the Alameda restaurant

Last night, my friends Eddie and Aamani took me out to Trabocco to celebrate my fifty-something birthday. I had gone a couple of times before but not since the pandemic, and it was a great experience. The food was good, the service was exceptional, the atmosphere convivial and the overall experience felt as COVID-safe as any dining experience can be. In all, it was the perfect place for a girls night out.

Trabocco is the creation of Italian chef Giuseppe Naccarelli and it offers a menu of pretty traditional Italian (as opposed to Italian-American) dishes, with several salad, pizza and pasta choices in addition to a few main dishes. There is a strong emphasis on the quality of the ingredients and the flavors – at least the ones I experienced – seemed very authentic.

The restaurant has a large dining room with an open kitchen and convivial bar. It offers the casual Even before the pandemic it offered outdoor sitting but it has now expanded it to a larger area with a canvass roof but semi-open sides. Our table was next to one of these sides, and there was a nice, if slight, breeze (which also meant it got a bit chilly, so I was happy I’d brought a cardigan). Perfect for pandemic dining.

One of the thing that makes Trabocco a good place for a girls night out is its selection of cocktails – mostly traditional American ones with a small twist. I had the kaffir lime cosmopolitan (which just substituted kaffir lime juice for regular lime juice, a great idea), and it was quite good. Eddie had the Milano Mule and found it delicious. Aamani was driving so she skipped cocktails.

The meal started with slices of rustic bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I was impressed the waiter asked whether we wanted the vinegar added to the olive oil and then offered pepper on top. A small detail, but made the experience nicer.

We then shared a plate of burrata con prosciutto, which came with some sort of microgreen. It had three big slices of prosciutto, which made it perfect for three to share (though I wonder if they’d given us four smaller slices if we were four) and a large round of very fresh tasting but surprisingly firm burrata. It came with breadsticks but the burrata was actually solid enough that you could pick it up with a fork. I enjoyed it very much, in particularly mixed with the microgreen in question. The prosciutto was delicious.

For my main dish, I had the ravioli con coda , “house-made pasta stuffed with braised oxtail, au jus, pecorino pepato”. The plate was satisfying and tasted utterly authentic. It tasted exactly as I’d expect it to, which was a bit disappointing – as I’m always searching for new flavors – but on the other hand very comforting. I’d order it again when in need of a hug in a plate.

Eddie had the grilled salmon (which, along with a Mediterranean bass and some other fish were the catch of the day), which came with sautéed spinach and arugula salad. She thought the salmon was perfectly cooked and the sides were delicious. Aamani had the risotto, but unfortunately I don’t recall what she thought of it.

For dessert, I opted for the zabaglione with berries. It was, once again, exactly as advertised – a competent zabaglione with fresh berries mixed in. Eddie was disappointed that her affogato had very little ice cream, but she enjoyed the flavor nonetheless. Aamani liked her panna cotta.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the service. Our waiter, who grew up in Italy and had a wonderful Italian accent, was friendly, helpful and efficient. He and other waiters wore well-fitted stylish masks, which as a COVID-phobe I appreciated for their health as much as mine. My dessert was served in a plate with “Happy Birthday” written on it and a candle. The chef and the waiter joined my friends in signing me Happy Birthday, which was nicer and less embarrassing than I had feared when I saw them doing the same to another birthday girl in a nearby table. To top it off, they didn’t charge us for my desert because it was my birthday!

We stayed in the restaurant late, until there were very few guests left, and they didn’t rush us out at all.

In all, it couldn’t have been a nicer birthday dinner.

Trabocco 
2213 South Shore Center 
Alameda, California 
510-521-1152
Su, T-Th 11:30am – 8:30pm, F-Sa 11:30am – 9:30pm



I’ve finished cooking “I” cuisines

Did I miss any? If so, please comment below.

My international food project, started 21 years ago this month, has moved at a glaciar pace since then. But I’m glad to say that I am now done with cuisines that start with an “i”. Or at least I hope so – I keep discovering new cuisines that I didn’t know about when I reached their letter in the alphabet. Indeed, in addition to the cuisines below I caught up on A by cooking an Awadhi meal – only to realize that I’ve skipped Aceh.

The final “I” cuisines I cooked are:

Indonesian

Jackfruit Curry, Vegan Indonesian Fried Rice, Indonesian Broiled Cod, Fried Chicken and Beef Rendang

Iranian

Butternut Squash Soup, Split Pea and Barley Stew, Fried Fish for Nowruz, Chicken Kebab, Cubed Meat Kebab, Pomegranate Chicken and Braised Short Ribs with Orange

Irish American

Irish Stew, Corned Beef and Potatoes O’Brien.

Italian

Panzanella, Pasta with lemon sauce, Bucatini with four cheeses, Pasta in Mushroom Sauce, Gnocchi in a Gorgonzola, Pear and Walnut Sauce, Country Style Chicken and Steak Tagliata

Italian Renaissance

Onion Soup, Renaissance-style Fried Chicken and Braised Beef with Carrots

These join my previously cooked I cuisines:

  • Iceland: baked fish, chicken with saffron and pepper cookies
  • Imperial China: a chicken wing recipe from the 8th century, braised chicken from the 10th-13th and beef and walnuts from the 18th.
  • India: chickpea, red bean, and chicken curries plus chicken and tofu tandoori
  • Indo-Chinese: noodles and cauliflower
  • Iraq: lentil soup, two types of kibbeh, chicken in yogurt sauce, lamb shanks, rice, and farro pilaf
  • Ireland: Irish stew, beef & stout pie, potato biscuits, and bread and butter pudding.
  • Iroquois: ghost bread and three sisters stew
  • Israel: corn shakshuka, meatballs in tahini sauce, lamb shawarma, grilled chicken and olive oil cake
  • Italian-American: minestrone, fetuccini alfredo, baked zitti, spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, vegan lasagna, chicken scarpariello and chicken parmesan.
  • Ivory Coast: grilled chicken, roasted lamb, stewed chicken and peanut sauce.

Restaurant Review: Grotto at the Golden Nugget, Las Vegas

We stayed at the Golden Nugget our last night in Vegas in August 2014, and we were too tired to leave the hotel to go have dinner.  Of the several restaurants at the hotel, Grotto seemed to be the best choice in terms of cost and reviews.  Indeed, we had a fairly good meal. It’s overpriced, but it could have been worse.

Grotto is divided into two sections.  The main section occupies a large, semi-open space near the front desk.  The second section is across the pathway that leads to the casino, by the pool and has views of the pool area.  We ate in the main dining room, which is kept somewhat dark. It’s nice, but too open to pool-attired passerbys to feel anything other than casual.

I had the chicken marsala ($20), which comes with fettuccine alfredo.  I enjoyed this dish very much, I hadn’t had that combination before but it worked very well.

One of the kids had the Margherita pizza, which I also remember enjoying.  I don’t remember what Mike and the other kid had.

Service, I recall, was fine.

Grotto
Golden Nugget
129 Fremont Street Experience
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 386-8341
http://www.goldennugget.com/LasVegas/eat_grotto.asp

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Capo’s Restaurant & Speakeasy – Las Vegas

It’s definitely not fair to review a restaurant a year and a half after you had dinner there, when your memory of the experience is dimmer than the lights at dinner, but I’m creating a travel page on Las Vegas, and I want to include Capo’s.  Though the restaurant is definitely overpriced, it offers such a cool Las Vegas experience, that I can fully recommend it.

Capo’s is a prohibition era Mafia theme restaurant. It plays the part of a speakeasy, and the coolness starts from the moment you make your way inside. I won’t spoil the surprise, but it works best if you get yourself in the mood: it’s prohibition era and you are trying to gain admission to a speakeasy, where they may be a bit weary of you.

The restaurant itself is both sumptuous and very dark – it plays very well with the Mafia scene and it’s easy to believe you are in another era.  The food, as I remembered it, was good, though not outstanding.  I remember service being very, very slow – which I didn’t mind as much, because I loved the atmosphere, but it can be hard with hungry kids.  They have live music later in the evening, and I wished I’d been there for more than a song or two – but my kids were tired.

As I mentioned, prices are high but they have groupons and other discounts, worth hunting for (e.g. they currently have a Travelzoo deal of lunch for 2 for $19).

Capo’s Restaurant & Speakeasy
5675 W Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 436-2276
http://www.caposrestaurant.com/

Marga’s Las Vegas

Marga’s Restaurant Reviews

Acqua e Farina – Restaurant Review – Hayward

I walked past Acqua e Farina several times, on my way to and from my favorite tea house, The Golden Tea Garden,  before I noticed its existence.  From the outside, the restaurant looked simple and inviting, like an old world, hole-in-the-wall sort of place.   I put it on the back of my mind as a place to try some day, and from there I retrieved it last April, when I was looking for a place to celebrate my anniversary, with both my husband and children.  We had a great experience then, which I repeated last night with a group of friends.

As we discovered once we actually went into Acqua e Farina, this little restaurant occupies the space which was once the home of Rue de Main.  The dining room is a little strange, with several smallish eating areas.  The largest one is decorated with wall paintings of  Italian village storefronts, so you can easily pretend that you are eating al fresco in a piazza.  It’s quite nice.

The menu is filled with classic Italian and Italian-American dishes.  The pasta ones are nicely priced in the low-to-mid teens with meat and fish dishes in the high teens.  A porterhouse steak tops the price list at $30.

We started by sharing the prosciutto ($8) and the polenta ($7).  The prosciutto, which came wrapping thick slices of melon, was good, though this is not a favorite dish of mine.  The polenta, however, was outstanding.  The baked slices are served with mushrooms in a Madeira sauce that is just out of this world.  I’d had it in my previous visit, and it was just as good this time.  Don’t miss it.

For my main dish, I had the gnocchi della casa ($14), which came with a creamy tomato sauce.  The gnocchi just melted in my mouth, and the sauce was quite pleasant.  Like most of the entrees at Acqua e Farina, this wouldn’t win any culinary awards, but it was solid.  My previous visit I’d had the spinach ravioli in meat sauce ($14), and I had enjoyed them, but not as much as the gnocchi.  This time, my friend Katrina had the ravioli but in a pesto sauce, which she enjoyed very much.  At a previous visit, one of my daughters had the lasagne di carne ($14.5), which she also liked.  Again, no culinary awards, but good, simple Italian food.

Acqua e Farina may do even better with its non-pasta dishes.  Eddie found her salmone alla griglia, salmon grilled and served with a garlic, basil and fresh tomato white wine sauce ($19.5) to be the best salmon she’d had in a while. Parker, meanwhile, was very pleased with her melanzane del giorno ($12.5), eggplant in a tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella.  She found it a big heavy on the cheese for her taste, but thought it was very good.

The desserts may be Acqua e Farina’s weak point.  My ricotta cheesecake ($6) was light but unexciting, and while I didn’t try Eddie’s lemon sorbet ($4), I did notice she only ate half of her dish.  I can’t remember what I thought of the tartufo di cioccolato ($5.5), chocolate ice cream with hazelnuts, which I had in my first visit, which means it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Service was outstanding both times. The waiters were attentive and friendly, though this time they failed a bit in the replenishing drinks part.  The meal after tax and tip came to about $133.

In all, Acqua e Farina is a solid restaurant for when you want a nice night out at a moderate price.

Acqua e Farina
22622 Main Street
Hayward, CA
510.888.1568
http://acqua-e-farina.com/
Lunch: M-Sa 11 AM – 2:30 PM
Dinner: Su-Th 4-9 PM, F-Sa 4-10 PM

Hayward Restaurant Reviews

Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

Luke’s Grill Restaurant Review – San Leandro

When we first moved to San Leandro, almost fourteen years ago, we used to go to Luke’s Grill quite often.  There was a distinct lack of restaurant choices (which remains today) and the food at Luke’s was competent enough.   However, as time went on the food got worse and the prices got higher, and we stopped going.  Then, a few weeks ago we wanted to go out in San Leandro, and I thought we should give it another try.  Not only had it been years, but armed with a Restaurant.com gift certificate, the prices seemed more reasonable.

It was a good decision. While the food won’t win any culinary competitions, it’s back to being competently made and tasty enough, the portions are generous, and – with the gift certificate – the prices are competitive.  Service, moreover, was very good and the family who runs it is very friendly.  The only down with Luke’s grill is that the live music, on Saturday nights, is too loud.  Don’t get me wrong, the music is quite good, but even sitting on the other side of the restaurant it was hard to hold a conversation.

The kids and I all had pasta.  I ordered the beef ravioli with meat sauce ($13) and a side of meatballs.  It was tasty and satisfying, and the portion was large enough to bring leftovers home.  Mika, my 11-yo, had the manicotti with marinara sauce ($12) and she pronounced it “very yummy”.  Again, there were leftovers.  Pasta dishes come with a side of garlic bread (OK, a bit tough/bitter) and your choice of soup or salad. I had the lemon chicken, as I usually do, and while I remembered it more lemony, it was very satisfying in a chilly night.

Mike had the gyros on pita ($8.50) and he was also quite pleased. It was what you expected the dish to be.  Camila, meanwhile, had the kids’ spaghetti ($4.50). She ate it plain, so there isn’t much to say about that.

The complimentary bread with olive tapenade was very good (the tapenade more than the bread), and, as I mentioned, waters and cokes were refreshed frequently.

In all, I think I’ll be going to Luke’s Grill more often.  Specially, given how much Mika likes it.

Luke’s Grill Restaurant
1509 East 14th St.
San Leandro
510-614-1010
http://www.lukesgrill.com/
M-Th: 11 AM – 9 PM
F: 11 AM – 10 PM
Sa: 12 PM – 10 PM
Su: 4 PM – 9 PM

Original Luke’s Grill Review

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews

 

 

Tuscany Restaurant – San Leandro – Review

August 2011 update: This restaurant is currently for sale.

February 2011 Review

La Bella Italia, the restaurant that took over the old Prings’ space, is back under a new name: Tuscany. After years of trying to make a go at it, including multiple renovations and the addition of an Indian food menu, the Indian-American Italian-food loving family who owns the place had finally said “enough” and leased out the facilities to a couple of wanna-be restauranteurs who opened up an Italian restaurant they called Bardelli’s in the location. Apparently Bardelli’s didn’t do so well – I never tried it, so the food might have been a problem, though I suspect highish prices and a lack of promotion figured into the equation – so they closed and returned the restaurant to the Bella Italia owners, who have apparently decided to have a new go at it under a new name. Unfortunately, that’s all they seem to have changed from their previous incarnation.

My friend Aamani, Camila and I decided to go there for lunch yesterday. We got there around noon and we were one of two parties. Their lunch menu consists of a handful of cold sandwiches, pizzas, pastas and soup/salad (the same stuff they had before). If I well remember they are mostly in the $7-9 range. Lunch is served with a nice warm dinner bun and butter and a small bowl of soup. Yesterday it was some bean and pasta soup, tasty but not too interesting.

We had about an hour for lunch, not enough time to order the pizzas, so Aamani went for the Prosciutto sandwich (fresh mozzarella, parma prosciutto roasted peppers and artichokes). She thought it was pretty good. She liked the bread and was happy with the ingredients, though she wished the prosciutto had been warmed. Still, she wasn’t doing handstands over it. I had their lasagna bolognese and was disappointed by the lack of seasoning. The whole dish was very bland, some salt would have surely helped, perhaps a cheese beyond ricotta.

On the plus side, lunch was pretty cheap and the waiter was gorgeous (albeit very young). Still, I don’t imagine I’ll be back anytime soon.

La Bella Italian Inn
15015 E. 14th St.
San Leandro, CA

Marga’s San Leandro Restaurant Reviews