The story: Barlago opened several months ago in Oakland’s Adam’s Point neighborhood, in the space that for the longest time was the family-owned Zza’s Italian restaurant. This new reincarnation is by Philip Raskin, who has owned another longtime Oakland Italian restaurant Filippo’s in the Rockridge neighborhood.
Why I went: I was invited by the restaurant for a complimentary dinner, so one Saturday I went with my friend Vera on one of our warm summer nights.
The vibe: The warm weather makes the front outdoor seating a popular spot among young neighborhood residents, especially during happy hour. Raskin plans to add heaters with the cooler fall and winter seasons. Inside the spacious 50-seat dining area, it’s a mix of couples and families enjoying the rustic pasta and Roman-style pizza dishes.
The menu: Predictable Italian-California appetizers and salads, with a selection of pastas and pizza (Roman style is the rectangular style of pizzas that looks almost like flatbreads). We tried the bologonese ($15) and the rustic Italian comes off like home-cooked meals, with the sauce and pasta having a simple preparation. The Casino pizza ($13) was the clam pizza with bacon, chili flakes, oregano and pecorino. While it had a nice clam flavor, I barely could fine any clam meat.
The booze: A limited selection of Italian and California wine and a few specialty cocktails. Like I mentioned, there’s a happy hour that can be a nice taste of the drinks program.
My favorite dish: Can’t say a dish stood out, but I did enjoy the crudo appetizer ($9), which while an awkward combination of cucumbers, fennels and chili, it was fresh and more sophisticated than the other dishes. Not sophisticated were any of the desserts, which came out looking like something from the Cheesecake Factory.
Insider tip: This tip comes from Vera, who says to be sure to check out the whimsical drawings on the bathroom doors. OK, kind of a lame tip, but that’s the best I could think of for this place.
The last bite: Barlago is a step of from Filippo’s but its rustic approach can sometimes translate to simple and unsophisticated. While that can be good at times, it sometimes makes you wonder why bother when you could do the same at home? Still, the popular outdoor seating with a view of Lake Merritt can be a fun place to gather with friends.
The rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Barlago Italian Kitchen, 550 Grand Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.836.2424. Open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday; weekend brunch. Closed Monday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. barlago.biz
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