It’s always a revelation to me when I eat freshly made pasta. While I typically use dried pasta when cooking at home, there’s something about biting into freshly made pasta that’s almost dreamlike, especially when done well.
That was the case as I sat at the counter of Belotti Ristorante e Bottega digging into my bowl of tagliatelle ($16.50). The narrow flat noodles were delicate but still could carry the wild boar sugo and pecorino toscano, which lovingly clung to the long ribbons of pasta that I twirled with my fork and spoon. There was an authenticity to the flavors and texture of the pasta that made me believe I grew up eating this in Italy, if I had been so lucky to have been born and raised there.
The genius behind the pasta is the restaurant’s namesake, Michele (pronounced “Mee-ke-le) Belotti, who opened the restaurant in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood after working at San Francisco’s Ristobar. Originally from Bergamo, Italy, Belotti also worked at several Italian restaurants before moving to the United States. His first restaurant attempts to honor the fresh pasta dishes of the Lombardy and Piedmont regions.
Since opening earlier this year, Belotti (in the former I Squared location next to Hudson Bay Café) has attracted large crowds from the neighborhood, often packing the tiny space. Both times I visited, I arrived early and sat at the bar.
The wine menu leans heavily toward Italy with a couple of California options. The bartender let me try several of the reds before I settled on the Sagrantino Montefalco ($15). On a later visit, I ordered a hearty California Syrah ($9.50) from Cambria Estates in Santa Maria.
As for the food, much of the focus is naturally on the pasta, which includes seven or eight options including a couple of stuffed pasta dishes. Besides the tagliatelle, I also tried the tagliolini ($16.50) because I was attracted by the inclusion of yellow peaches mixed with porcini mushrooms and grana padano.
The tagliolini wasn’t as flavorful maybe because peaches aren’t really in season yet, but the pasta redeemed the dish because of its thin, light texture. It’s probably safe to say that you can’t go wrong with any of the pasta dishes. (Belotti plans to offer a pasta tasting menu down the road.) There are a few main plates ($28 to $30) such as suckling pig or steak, but I stuck with the pasta during my visits.
I also tried the large insalata del campo ($8.50), a plate of baby kale with candied pecans, goat cheese and dried cherries in a honey mustard dressing. On my second visit, I ordered a side of broccoli with pancetta ($7) that surprisingly arrived like a beautiful casserole dish with the broccoli baked with pecorino piccanti, which were like little dollops of whipped potato.
There are only two desserts on the menu – a tiramisu and panna cotta. I tried the tiramisu ($7) and felt so Italian ending my meal with this dessert with a latte on the side. The tiramisu wasn’t a sophisticated interpretation but was a classic rustic presentation that was comforting and welcomed.
I’m not sure if it’s because they’re new or the staff is small for its popularity, but there seemed a sense of frenzy among the staff as they rushed to get plates on the table. Even Belotti could be seen peeking out from the small back kitchen with a pan of pasta in hand checking on the service. There’s no real front-of-house person so sometimes people had to wait in the front until a server noticed them.
This hectic pace was reflected in the dinnerware, where on one visit I noticed my utensils had lint probably from the servers quickly drying them off with a towel in their rush to churn the tables. Still, despite the hurried pace of the servers, many of the diners I noticed took their time to savor Belotti’s food and enjoy their wine.
The last bite
Belotti is a charming bit of Italy in Oakland with its authentic flavors (many of the ingredients are imported from Italy such as the olive oil served with the bread). While the tiny spot can seem a bit flustered by the crowds, there’s a reason people keep coming for the food, especially the pasta.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Belotti Ristorante e Bottega, 5403 College Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.788.7890. Open Wednesday through Monday for lunch and dinner. Closed Tuesday. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. belottirb.com
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