Berkeley’s beloved Corso is back as Via del Corso
When 12-year-old Tuscan trattoria Corso closed in November 2020, its patrons were shattered, with Nosh readers flooding our comments to mourn the loss. According to owners Roscoe Skipper and Wendy Brucker, the financial strain of the pandemic was too much to bear, and their only option was to shutter Corso and sell its sister spot, Rivoli. But next Wednesday, the restaurant will open again, with new ownership and a menu focused on central Italian dishes.
The revived Corso is called Via del Corso, and at its helm is Berkeley-born Peter Chastain. He’s a longtime industry veteran, and for the last 21 years was the executive chef/owner of Walnut Creek’s Prima Ristorante, which he closed last July due to a combination of COVID-related pressures and a dispute with Prima’s landlord. He’s bringing several former Prima staffers with him to Via del Corso, including its former chef de cuisine, Massimo Orlando, and general manager Marco Penitenti.
Speaking with Nosh in March, Chastain said: “Aside from Prima, Corso was my favorite restaurant. I was born on Eunice and Shattuck,” and he’s planning on reviving many of its most popular dishes, like its steak alla Fiorentina and its beloved pollo al burro. Diners should also expect new dishes from a wide range of Italian regions. “We don’t really want to say that we’re 100% Tuscan,” Chastain said, a decision that informed the new restaurant’s name. “Via del Corso is a big boulevard in Rome where all the streets from the different regions go into it,” and the restaurant’s menu will reflect that broad focus.
Its opening menu (which you can see above) also includes a tightly edited list of salads and starters like polipo (octopus with black olives, capers and potato) as well as a selection of vegetarian and meat-sauced pastas. According to Chastain, it’s all systems go for an opening on June 16, just one day after most health orders lift and restaurants resume indoor service at full capacity. For now, Chastain tells Nosh, all seating will be in its cozy dining room, but plans are underway to construct a parklet for al fresco meals, so watch for that towards the end of June. To book a reservation, call 510-704-8004 “or just come by,” he said. Via del Corso, 1788 Shattuck Ave. (near Delaware Street), Berkeley
A restaurant industry insider is gearing up to open a new slice shop in Oakland
Bay Area-born Jonathan Ruppert has spent the last 30 years in the restaurant industry, working everywhere from small Sacramento cafes to big East Coast hotel restaurants. “But after a career of that,” he told Nosh,” it was time to focus on my family,” which meant (perhaps counterintuitively) opening a restaurant of his own.
So he started looking for “a pizza or small franchise” opportunity, and found one at 4395 Piedmont Ave. Until last summer, that address was home to Slicer Pizza, a casual thin-crust slice spot that was a favorite of folks like former Nosh editor Sarah Han. The space on the buzzy Oakland block was “a perfect fit” for Pizzeria Violetta, Ruppert said, his new restaurant focusing on takeout and delivery whole pies and slices.
The restaurant’s named after his daughter, Violet, and will specialize in New York-style pizza (“though I know we’ll have different water than they have in New York,” he said with a laugh). “There are enough people doing Chicago and Detroit-style pizza,” Ruppert said, so he started refining thin-crust recipes. The sauce is made from tomatoes sourced in Yolo County, the pizza dough is made with organic California wheat that’s milled in the South Bay, and it’s all topped with cheeses from nearby areas like Sonoma and Mendocino. Pizzas will also be made gluten-free on request, Ruppert said, and vegan mozzarella will also be available.
Diners will have two choices to scratch their pizza itch: full-sized, 18-inch pies, or slices. (There will also be grab-and-go sandwiches and salads for the non-pie inclined). Ruppert, who’s been working in Napa, is leveraging his wine industry contacts to build out a solid beer and wine list, with “lots of good wines, but nothing over 30 bucks,” he said.
The restaurant only has 18 indoor seats, so even though indoor dining will be fully open when Pizzeria Violetta makes its debut, Ruppert says he expects most business will be takeaway. Diners will be able to call orders in for delivery, and the restaurant will also appear on the usual app-based services.
If all goes well, Ruppert expects to open Pizzeria Violetta on June 22. To keep track of its opening, follow its Instagram account for the latest thin-crust news. Pizzeria Violetta, 4395 Piedmont Ave. (near Pleasant Valley Avenue), Oakland
Innovative South Asian spot Munch India has reopened as a takeout-only comfort food restaurant
The last few years have been a time of great change for Munch India founders Diana Afroza and Nick Ahmed: After operating as a food truck for six years, the pair opened a brick-and-mortar spot in Berkeley, with the goal of changing perceptions of South Asian food with a rotating menu of locally-sourced dishes. In early 2020, Munch pivoted to a prix fixe model, with a focus on fine dining-type meals. And then the pandemic hit.
The COVID-19 crisis ”compelled us to completely shut down our operations for a year as we were trying to keep ourselves and everyone around us as safe as possible,” the restaurant said via email. And even though California will lift dining restrictions on June 15, Munch’s owners still believe that “indoor fine dining might not be a viable option for quite some time given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic.”
So, instead, Munch will reopen on June 17 as a takeout-and-delivery-only operation, with a menu that includes “the same creative regional Indian dishes that [patrons] have come to know and love” as well as “some comfort food dishes with an Indian flair such as fish and chips, fried chicken and burgers.” Orders must be placed online via Munch’s ordering website, and hours of operation will be limited to Thursdays through Sundays from 3-8 p.m., with an ordering cutoff time of 7:30 p.m. Munch India, 3015 Shattuck Ave. (at Emerson), Berkeley
There’s a new sandwich pop-up inside an Alameda standby
Jacob Alioto, the chef at neighborhood pizza-and-pasta spot East End, has a new side hustle: sandwiches. Every other Wednesday, he’s serving up meaty offerings like a slow roast lamb shoulder with fava beans (hmm, I’m sensing a theme) on a French roll and other “takes on classics, previous house specialties, [and] some things he hasn’t thought of yet.”
He’s calling the pop-up Sand’witcher, and said that it will have a rotating menu that can be found on East End’s Instagram in the days before each bi-weekly event. Preorders can be placed on East End’s website, or called into the restaurant, day-of, at 510-263-9630. Walk-up orders are also welcome. The next Sand’witcher pop-up will be on June 23, and will run from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sand’witcher at East End, 1650 Park St. (near Buena Vista Avenue), Alameda