Desco extensive guide to Berkeley and San Francisco area, plus inspiring articles about trips around the world

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OAKLAND ●Restaurants

  CLOSED  499 9th St./Washington St.; Old Oakland.  The Latin word “desco” translates as “dinner table,” and this welcoming northern Italian restaurant is indeed a great spot to enjoy a meal.  Situated inside a vintage 1876 building--with original brick work, mosaic-tile flooring, and enormous windows--it is a feast for the eyes as well.  Outside on this traffic-quiet street crammed with vibrant restaurants, trees strung with tiny lights bring cheer to the night.  For a starter, don’t miss the seasonal bruschette trio (ours included pesto, pureed mushrooms, and prosciutto with caramelized onion toppings).  A green salad composed of blood orange chunks, pistachios, and swirls of fennel was tasty and refreshing, and followed by a brown bag full of housemade Italian bread that was perfectly crusty on the outside and soft and stretchy on the inside (the bag keeps it warm).  Most of the pastas are made in-house, and the pappardelle with lamb cheek-red onion sugo braised in Sangiovese was especially delicious accompanied with a San Vicenti Chianti Classico Toscana (all wines are from Italy, and classic cocktails area also available).  Pizza choices include both round traditional and rectangular stretched.  We opted for a traditional thin-crust round topped with mozzarella, broccoli rabbe, and a delicate housemade sausage but no red sauce.  Our waiter offered a plate of bright red Calabria chiles from the toe of the boot of Italy to spice things up, and a spicy, full-bodied, Zinfandel-like Tommaso Bussola Valpolicella Veneto went especially well with it.  Main courses of steak, pan-roasted chicken, and more are available, but we moved on to a nutty apricot-almond torte for dessert.  I couldn’t resist trying the traditional Italian after-dinner drinks--a black fernet branca made with menthol, herbs, and spices was medicinal; a sweeter cynar didn’t taste like the artichokes it is made with.  In addition to table seating, options include booths, at the central bar, at a communal table, and outside by the sidewalk. 

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Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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