It’s only day two at Elmwood Cafe, a newly opened French-style brasserie in the old Ozzie’s space on College, and the place is packed. Owner Michael Pearce says business has been great and he didn’t expect it.

He shouldn’t be so surprised. Elmwood locals have been monitoring the careful restoration of the old soda fountain for months — Ozzie’s was a much loved neighborhood institution and its closing and subsequent renovation was bound to trigger curiosity.

First came the expansion of Mrs Dalloway’s bookstore into part of the former pharmacy-cum-soda fountain. Now we have Elmwood Cafe.

The cafe comes with impeccable pedigree — and being such a foodie town, that fact had also piqued interest. Manager Kara Hammond has run the Chez Panisse-spawned Cafe Fanny for the past eight years. Her partner in management, Rachel Ericsen, worked at Camino and Mr Espresso, while pastry chef Mark Chacon — whose beautiful apple torte, fleur-de-sel shortbread and cranberry coffee cake are currently displayed on the front marble counter — also hails from Cafe Fanny.

Much care was taken in restoring the 1920s interiors. Pearce is an expert in antique musical instruments and is a believer in leaving original woodwork well alone. “We saved everything we could from the original Ozzie’s,” he says. “And I insisted the craftsmen did not refinish anything.” An appealing aspect is the way the interior windows provide views into the book-lined Mrs Dalloway’s next door.

The menu is short with an emphasis on healthy, organic choices: breakfast, which is served from when the cafe opens at 7am, might be levain toast with Donna’s jam and prosciutto, granola or five-grain rolled porridge. Lunch possibles include paninis, soups and salads; while for dinner there’s just one dish, currently Sante Fe stew with sweet potatoes, black beans and pork. The cafe closes at 10pm and is open seven days a week.

Pearce says the cafe is going to operate on a novel business model — half of its profits will be donated to charities and customers will have a say as to which are selected.

Meantime, if the weekend crowds are anything to go by, the 18-strong staff will be kept on their toes. Recommended: the artisanal pear soda and the farro and roasted vegetables salad.

Photos: Tracey Taylor.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...