The guy next to me flashed a (foamy) smile and said, “We drink our beer at room temperature in England.”

“That’s because Lucas Electrics makes your refrigeration.” Ba-Dum-Bump. I got a hearty laugh. Lucas Electrics made the electrical systems for british cars that were notorious for failing.

We were holding up the bar at Fauna in the midst of the recent troubles in Oakland. Frosty and I were there to support the restaurant, as were the Brit and his companions. I was feeling magnanimous and benevolent (when will I learn to recognize the hubris that comes before a fall?) so I told my barmate that I had been really impressed with the food in London in 2006 and that it had obviously overcome its reputation for tasteless, overcooked food.

That winning smile again, “You know, the US doesn’t have the best reputation throughout the rest of the world for producing tasteful, quality, gourmet food, either.” Um. I hadn’t thought about that before (hubris). Spam, fast food, Hostess products. I saw his point.

It is true that, as a young person (and before there was California Cuisine), I was not aware of a regional American cuisine that I would have described as “gourmet.” Which may be why I was intimidated by restaurants that served food from areas of the world that had a lot of gourmet cred.

Nothing mystified me more than Italian. Beyond the (Americanized versions of) spaghetti and meat sauce I’d grown up with, I really didn’t know anything about Italian cuisine, except that every person I met of Italian heritage was very serious about eating good food. And I have never had a bad meal made for me by an Italian. They seem to take the same ingredients I use, sprinkle some sort of Italian magic dust on them, and make incredibly flavorful dishes.

There were also not too many Italian restaurants in the East Bay that were making good fresh Italian food back in the day.

Things have changed. Desco is the latest addition to the Italian restaurant scene in Oakland. Chef-owner Donato Scotti (of Donato Enoteca in Redwood City and La Strada in Palo Alto) is focusing on Italian regional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients.

I went for a late lunch/early dinner and had a great meal, made even more enjoyable by the presence and enthusiasm of the chef.


Happy hour starts at 4:00, drinks are $8 and they are served with nibbles. Not too many places offer free food with happy hour, so this is sure to be a hit (I’m looking at YOU, hipster bar in SF that charged $5 for what was surely a bag of stale Lays tipped in to a trendy paper bag dish)

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After my prosecco and bites, I had the crudo, which came out at the same time as the fresh tomato cucumber salad. Magic dust. The crudo was very fresh and light, so good. The tomatoes were in the moment of peak ripeness, just perfect.

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Next came the Angus Loin with balsamic reduction, volcano salt, and grilled potatoes. I also had a side of grilled peppers. Such a simple meal, fresh ingredients, cooked to perfection. The volcanic salt was the note that set the other flavors off beautifully.

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I am so happy this place is in Old Oakland, one of my favorite parts of town. Also, they are open on Sundays and open for lunch, which few places are down there.
Magic dust.


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