Thursday, July 16, 2009


Berkeley, July 16, 2009—
LUNCH WITH FRIENDS in Berkeley today at a restaurant new to us, though not to them. Corso is described as a Florentine trattoria, but the food is somewhat Americanized, to my eye; the menu longer than perhaps it needs to be, the feel not Tuscan but generic Californian.
I warmed up with a Negroni, a nice aperitif; and moved on through a "Lattuga Romana," a sort of faux Caesar salad (romaine, crouton, garlic, lemon juice, but no egg, I think). Then a nice softball-size hunk of tuna. Non troppo cotto, I warned the waitress, and it arrived seared on the outside, barely warm at the center, just as I like it. With it, English peas and a little bit of mint. Delizioso.
Vermentino, Tuscany, "Cassamatta", 2007
  • Trattoria Corso, 1788 Shatuck Ave., Berkeley; tel. 510-704-8004


    rchrd said...

    Corso IS nice. A bit too noisy and hyperactive, but very nice, esp if you can get a quiet table near the window.
    But if you really want to get into it, sit at the bar and watch the chef(s).

    The location is interesting, too. Victoria reminded me (and the chef) that the restaurant is in the same spot that occupied Peter Howard's Serendipity Books back in the late 60's. (The used/antiquarian bookstore is now on lower University avenue.) Victoria (who once worked at Serendip) was full of nostalgia ("And that's where Peter had his desk!") on our first visit to Corso.

    So, have you been to Camino in Oakland on Grand Ave yet? Call us next time you're in town for a meal!

    Curtis Faville said...

    Dear rchrd:

    Nope, Serendipity was next door. The space that Corso occupies was rented, by Peter, for some years in the 1960's and '70's, as a storage space: Mushinshka Press books, among others, were kept there in boxes. When Howard first underwrote Small Press Distribution, some of that stock was housed there, too.

    We had dinner at Corso on Friday night--this was probably our eighth meal there. Oddly, my take is that the menu is a bit too repetitive--truly experimental restaurants try more new dishes, instead of repeating the same ones over and over. I had the best pork chop I've ever had in my life, which is saying something--absolutely mouth-watering, perfect! In addition to a variation on a caprese. Beautiful prosecco to go with. They make real drinks, too, not cool aid.

    Corso's a welcome addition to the Berkeley restaurant scene. They believe in establishing a reliable basic menu, and sticking with it. That will enable you to repeat favorable meals, but the sense of adventure will be lost. It's a trade-off. It's run by professionals, and the cooks know what they're doing. The prices are about B+ range.

    I'd like to see them do a bit more with fresh (same day) pasta--that's the true measure of a great Italian restaurant.