The Amadeus Team: hostess Emma Wallace, head chef Carlos Navarro de Luna, founder Craig Larsen, and hostess Hannah Scully.
The Amadeus team (l-r): server Emma Wallace, head chef Carlos Navarro de Luna, founder Craig Larsen, and server Hannah Scully — at the new restaurant on University Ave. (at Shattuck) in downtown Berkeley. Photo: Julia Hannafin

By Julia Hannafin

Update: Founder Craig Larsen contacted Berkeleyside just after publication to say he has put the opening of Amadeus “on hold.” He said he thinks he needs to bring someone else into the business to run the restaurant. We will bring you updates when we have them.

Original storyAmadeus, a new café-grill in downtown Berkeley, was born out of founder Craig Larsen’s desire to create “something really different.” The result is hard to describe in words — and certainly distinctive on Berkeley’s restaurant scene.

As reported recently on Berkeleyside’s Shop Talk, Amadeus had its soft launch on Wednesday, July 10. It fills the huge space at 2050 University Ave. which was previously occupied by the Meridian sports bar. The decor is dominated by ornate chairs (some from as far across the globe as Scotland and Amsterdam), antique couches, elegant wooden tables, and light fixtures featuring streams of crystals.

A flower detail on one of Amadeus’ many antique couches. Photo: Julia Hannafin

Larsen, who owns the building, said he envisioned an “honest” neighborhood spot that would serve as a convenient takeout place for his tenants in the apartments above, while providing a unique lounge space for both dinner crowds and daytime café-goers.

The result is unique. Much of the beauty lies in the details such as the way the trees on the back patio come alive with string lights at night, or the way a gilded mirror is inscribed with a handwritten Stephen King quotation.

A mirror hanging on the wall just as you walk in displays a quotation from Stephen King: “Only enemies speak the truth; friends of lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.” Photo: Julia Hannafin

Head chef Carlos Navarro de Luna puts a premium on as much of the food as possible being made in-house. That includes all the bread, as well as the cupcakes made with cactus honey that were being served on opening day.

The menu, when it is finalized, will focus on affordable dishes, and will change daily, Larsen said. Think grill staples like hamburgers, grilled vegetables and flatbread pizza. The kitchen has a pizza oven and dough mixer, as well as a custom-built grill that combines the designs of Argentinian and American grill. Larsen said customers are welcome to sit all day and drink coffee on one of the antique couches, or come for dinner and order a full meal. Larsen wants to serve food that is easy to eat and not too elaborate, with only gentle music playing in the background so there will be an “emphasis on talking and eating.”

Distinctive lights line Amadeus’ walls. Photo: Julia Hannafin
View from the kitchen, overlooking the restaurant. Photo: Julia Hannafin
Ornate golden and white furniture in the back section of the restaurant, an area designed for lounging that owner Craig Larsen jokingly called “the throne room.” Photo: Julia Hannafin
Head chef Carlos Navarro de Luna kneads homemade honey white bread dough. All of Amadeus’ bread is homemade. Photo: Julia Hannafin
Lights entangled in trees in Amadeus’ outdoor patio section. Photo: Julia Hannafin
Umbrellas and brick in Amadeus’ outdoor patio section. Photo: Julia Hannafin

Amadeus is at 2050 University Ave. (at Shattuck) in downtown Berkeley. It is currently open Tuesday through Saturday, 5-10pm. It aims to be open for Sunday brunch soon. Visit its website page or on Facebook for more details.

Julia Hannafin is a summer intern at Berkeleyside and a student at Columbia University studying creative writing and American studies. She writes for the music blog The Metropolitan Jolt.

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