Chances are you live a stone’s throw away from a Thai restaurant in your neighborhood, and you’ve got a go-to local favorite for pad thai. These days I often find myself traveling north of Berkeley, where there’s quite a few wonderful Thai eateries clustered in Albany, El Cerrito and San Pablo locales.
Pork is a constant at Oliveto. The menu revolves around it. On any given day, prep chefs can be seen breaking down a hog into various cuts –shoulder, loin, leg — and then processing them into porchetta, pancetta, scallopine, sausage or salumi.
Like Hollywood actors, some chefs will claim that they don’t pay attention to the critics. The reality, of course, is that they do.
A good review, in a prominent publication or media outlet, can help launch an upstart restaurant or attract new customers to an old one. A bad one can sink the newcomer or spell trouble for a venerated establishment.
Some might say that lentil soup is an odd thing to prepare in the summer. That would be true in Sacramento (where I live). But in the Bay Area, where it is often cold and foggy, a lentil soup is just the thing to be enjoying on a back patio. I learned this basic recipe at Oliveto, one of many perks of working as a galley slave (intern).
Sometimes it’s best not to tell your dinner guests what you are about to serve them.
Sometimes you should just watch their eyes light up as they try that first bite, and then reveal what you’ve prepared.
This is one of those dishes.
For the last two months, I’ve been part of this dinner troupe, as a stagehand — a chef apprentice. Starting in April, I took a leave from my job as an editorial writer and columnist for The Sacramento Bee to intern at Oliveto, an Italian restaurant in Rockridge.