Last Friday, Nosh was invited to check out Casa Barotti, Berkeley’s upcoming spizzicheria, or casual eatery offering an assortment of Italian regional snacks and drinks. At the time of our visit, owner Daniele Carsano was still awaiting Casa Barotti’s business license, and didn’t have a set opening date, but this week, he announced the eatery will open its doors on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
When Carsano first spoke to Nosh about Casa Barotti, the Turin native imagined it would be a place where friends could gather “for aperitivo time” with light snacks and Italian wines. The pandemic has put indoor gathering on hold, but fortunately, Carsano had always intended for Casa Barotti to offer grab-and-go eats. Spizzicherias are counter-service eateries, somewhere between a bar and a deli, and unlike Carsano’s other restaurant, 54 Mint Forno Italiano in Walnut Creek, the concept translates easily for pandemic dining.
Upon walking into Casa Barotti, guests will see a display case filled with a tempting array of baked Italian breads, like slabs of focaccia and pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) with a variety of toppings. Guests can order items by the half or full slice (or half or full tray for larger parties), taken to-go, as is, or quickly heated. Slices range from $6-$13, depending on the toppings. Only two or three guests will be allowed inside the restaurant to order at a time, Carsano said.
On our visit, we tried Casa Barotti’s focaccia bianca, the classic flatbread from Genoa. Light and airy, with a soft, slightly chewy interior and crispy exterior, it’s a simple, satisfying snack.
We also sampled the bianca with thin slices of herb-laden porchetta. In addition to the rolled pork loin, Casa Barotti has other salumi, like prosciutto and mortadella, that it slices on a vintage Italian meat slicer. The red, hand-operated Vittoria Volano is a thing of beauty, both aesthetically and functionally. The machine cranked out whisper-thin prosciutto that nearly melted in our mouth.
Our favorite menu item we sampled is a specialty from the Ligurian town of Recco. At first glance, the round focaccia looks like a naked baked pizza crust. Upon closer inspection, we noticed small mounds of white creamy cheese erupting from the bubbled and charred surface of the round bread. The cheese, Carsano told us, is Crescenza-Stracchino, a slightly tangy, creamy cow’s milk cheese. The stracchino is placed in globs between a top and bottom layer of yeast-less dough. The layers are stretched so thin that when baked, it’s hard to believe there could be anything between them. Only when the focaccia is sliced does the luscious cheese gently ooze out. (Note, the Recco-style focaccia is so proudly beloved by its originators that the name has protected geographical indication, meaning you can only call it “Focaccia di Recco” if it’s made in Recco.)
Other breads behind the counter we didn’t get to try were focaccia rossa (topped simply with a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil and Sicilian oregano — no cheese) and pizza al taglio with potatoes and zucchini. Casa Barotti’s menu also lists farinata, a bread made with chickpea flour; pizza sfogliata, a flaky flatbread; a selection of toasts and tramezzini, or finger sandwiches; and several fried bites, like arancine and panzerotti (a fried calzone filled with tomato sauce and Scamorza cheese). Carsano said the menu will change regularly, but with a few fixed items.
Casa Barotti serves a variety of Italian beverages, including Molecola, a Piedmontese cola made with mineral water. According to Molecola’s website, its unique glass bottle design is a tribute to the stylish, curvy “cinemas divas” of the 1940s and ’50s, like Sophia Loren. Carsano said he wanted to carry an Italian alternative to Coca-Cola, and Molecola, which we found to be a refreshing substitute, fit the bill perfectly. If you’re looking for something stronger, Casa Barotti also offers Italian wine, to-go for now. When indoor dining returns, it will also have two local beers on tap.
Carsano, who lives in Orinda, said he’s excited about bringing his Italian eats to the area. Casa Barotti is on a stretch of College Avenue between two other carb-centric businesses that often draw lines: La Farine bakery and Boichik Bagels. Carsano hopes local carb-lovers will relish in the breads at Barotti with similar gusto.
Casa Barotti will open on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Hours will be 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, with plans to eventually expand hours in the coming weeks.