The current interior of PIQ in downtown Berkeley. Photo: PIQ/Facebook
The current interior of PIQ in downtown Berkeley. It will undergo a quick re-vamp next month. Photo: PIQ/Facebook

Berkeley is shaping up to be quite the Italian dining destination. In addition to long-running restaurants like Lo Coco, Trattoria La Siciliana and Corso, we’ve seen the recent opening of Agrodolce and are waiting patiently for Lucia’s and the redone Gio’s to finish construction.

And joining all of these will be Radici, from the owners of PIQ.

Radici, which translates roughly to “roots” or “origin,” will open in the vacated Cyprus Restaurant space right next door to PIQ early next year. It will serve an entirely organic menu, heavy on pasta dishes and vegetables sourced from local farms.

If that wasn’t enough for the PIQ team, owner Nicki Rivieccio has also announced a renovation of PIQ itself. Changes will take place in November, and PIQ plans to sell drinks from an outdoor coffee cart during its brief closure.

Fig tart from PIQ. Photo: PIQ/Facebook
A fig tart from PIQ made recently using figs bought into the restaurant by a customer. Photo: PIQ/Facebook

Rivieccio has brought on chef Massimo Covello, formerly of Piazza D’Angelo (Mill Valley), Servino Ristorante (Tiburon), and Ristobar (San Francisco), to head up Radici, as well as the new menu at PIQ.

Covello intends for Radici to stand out from the growing pack of Italian joints with an emphasis on sustainability. In addition to its strict attention to sourcing (from the likes of Green Gulch, Star Route Farms and Full Belly), Radici’s kitchen will be outfitted with induction burners and will import as few ingredients as possible. All pasta and bread will be made in house, and the menu will be mostly vegetarian.

“We will still have meat of course,” said Covello, “but I like doing vegetarian food. It’s more challenging.”

In addition, Covello will be brining his expertise in gluten-free pasta to Radici. While he couldn’t share many details on the pasta dough itself, he said it is made from six different grains. Radici will offer gluten-free versions of both egg pasta and gnocchi, which has recently made an appearance as a special at PIQ.

Radici’s wine list will, unsurprisingly, include as many organic and biodynamic options as possible.

Also notable: the restaurant will offer house-made gelato in two different flavors a day. It will all be made from milk from Petaluma’s Saint Benoît Creamery.

Prosciutto sandwiches from PIQ. Photo: PIQ/Facebook
Prosciutto sandwiches from PIQ. Photo: PIQ/Facebook

This emphasis on eco-conscious dining is nothing new for either Covello or Riviecco. Covello was known for bringing in a farm-to-table ethos to his chef jobs in Marin County, and Riviecco grew up on a farm in Torre del Greco, near Naples. “People want to know what they’re eating,” said Riviecco.

To that end, the produce used at PIQ will also be sourced from local, organic farms. The menu will still continue to be based around homemade pizza, but will add pasta options made at next-door Radici. Covello would like to add additional pastry offerings, with more savory choices later in the day. All of the baked goods will be made with organic flour.

PIQ has brought all of its coffee in-house, and it is roasting its beans at the nearby Bay Area Co-Roaster facility, in which PIQ and Radici co-owner Paul Goldstone is the primary funder. Post-renovation, PIQ’s tea will be sourced through Desta Epicures Guild, an organic and fair-trade tea company based in San Anselmo.

Riviecco said he wants to bring the food “up another notch.”

“We’re already an established restaurant, and a unique restaurant, and we want to stay that way,” he said. However, with rising food and labor costs, Riviecco wants to make sure PIQ’s dishes reflect rising prices. He wants PIQ’s food to have a slightly more upscale presentation, but it will still be presented in a casual café setting.

“We want to do slow food in a fast way,” he said.

Still, Covello wants to emphasize that the end goal of this type of attention to detail is about taste. “When you go out to a great restaurant, it’s not the plating you remember,” he said. “The flavor is what you remember.”

PIQ is at 91 Shattuck Ave. (at Addison Street), Berkeley. Connect with the café on Facebook and Instagram.

Radici will be at 81 Shattuck Ave. (at Addison Street), Berkeley.

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Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...