Saturday, December 31, 2005


Eccolo is yet another restaurant started by a former Chez Panisse chef, in this case Christopher Lee, who was chef downstairs at Chez Panisse for a number of years. Eccolo is in the space formerly occupied by Ginger Island (and before that, Fourth Street Grill, back when there was very little on Fourth St.) in Berkeley.

The restaurant has been remodeled into a handsome space. For those who remember the godawful din that was Ginger Island, steps seem to have been taken to mute the echo a bit, which was certainly appreciated. The noise level would have been fine except for the very loud people sitting behind me.

For a starter, we shared an antipasto plate. This consisted of some prosciutto, some almonds, sliced parmesan, olives, and an unidentified fried green. I think the proscuitto was house-cured; it was certainly amazingly good.

For a main course I had a veal chop with marrow sauce and a potato gratin. It was a good sized T-bone of veal, cooked nicely, although it could have used a lot more salt. Debbie had butternut squash lasagna with pinenuts, brown butter, and sage, which was quite good. Debbie makes a similar lasagne that's even richer (with prosciutto and bechamel). Mom had the lamb with chard sformato and olive sauce. I think Mom was disappointed that she didn't get the veal chop. She misread the "grilled over grape vines" to mean "made with vine leaves", which didn't sound too good (and wouldn't have been!) Catherine had bucatini with tomato sauce off of the kids menu, which she seemed to like.

For dessert we all had chocolate zabaglione with crushed amaretti. It was creamy with a bit of a sharp bite.

I usually have high hopes for these Chez Panisse spinouts, and those hopes are sometimes fulfilled (c.f. Oliveto while Paul Bertolli was there and paying attention) and sometimes not. In this case, I thought it didn't quite fulfill that promise. The food was good, but not best-you-ever-had great like Chez Panisse achieves routinely. The service was fine, though our waitress had a funny sneer that I figure was just a character trait, not a voluntary demonstration of disdain.

1820 Fourth St.
Berkeley, California 94710