Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dish on Dining: The Return of Dopo

Cozy neighborhood restaurant is cozy no more

4293 Piedmont Ave., (Oakland)
(North Piedmont Avenue neighborhood)
Lunch, M-F, dinner M-Sat.
(No reservations; credit cards accepted)

Since the tiny restaurant Dopo opened more than two years ago, you could always guarantee a line outside as hungry East Bay diners waited to try the daily creations of two former chefs from Oliveto. Well, the lines are smaller these days, but not because of a decrease in the quality of food. Dopo is tiny no more.

Closed for a few weeks in September, the once 30-seat restaurant reopened about a week ago doubling its size with more tables and an expanded bar area. And even with the bigger size, the restaurant is still able to fill their new tables with diners, including the outdoor tables along the side of the house-like location (or what I call, “the alley”).

How this tiny trattoria with its brick oven can attract returning diners is because of the skilled execution of the chefs. The menu selection is limited because it changes daily, but that means you can always discover new favorites and get to taste what’s in season. And there’s always the daring use of ingredients such as rabbit, octopus, or pigeon.

The dining experience will be different than what most Americans think about when they go out for a nice meal. Think European, which means controlled portions with minimal ingredients but loaded with taste. If you’re expecting a big plate of food, then you may need to stick with ordering Dopo’s thin-crust pizzas instead of the entrees. The pasta dishes will definitely satisfy you, but again, don’t expect a lot of ingredients. The chefs focus on simplicity so that you can appreciate the main ingredients featured in the dish.

While most of the items on the menu are worth getting for taste and price, I wouldn’t recommend spending the big dollars for the salami platter. The mixed selection of fine Italian salami go for a minimum $25 for two people, and you get a plate of maybe 16 paper-thin slices of meat. Yes, they’re tasty, but you’re wallet will regret the hefty price for what amounts to a light snack.

Minor point: The restaurant needs to find a good sommelier to develop its wine selection, which currently serves some mediocre reds. Did anyone taste these before putting them on the menu?

Dopo has ambitious culinary dreams, and now they have the dining room to support it.

Single guy rating: 2-1/2 stars (perfect for new diners and emerging foodies)

Explanation of the single guy’s rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy’s dream dinner

Dopo in Oakland

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