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Dine About Oakland: Dopo

May 4, 2009

Dopo, everybody’s favorite Piedmont Avenue Italian spot (okay, at least it seems that way considering the wait!), is also one of our neighborhood faves, but we don’t get there very often—mostly because of the aforementioned wait, which frequently tops an hour. Since Dopo doesn’t take reservations, that either means a lot of advanced planning or a lot of waiting around.

But last week, Dopo was among the Oakland restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life East Bay, the annual fundraiser for AIDS services in cities across the country, so we decided it was time for another visit. (In the East Bay this fundraiser benefits Vital Life Services, who also happen to be the folks who bought the Your Black Muslim Bakery headquarters last year and have been doing a beautiful job restoring them to use the space for service provision.)

It’s been over a year since the last time we were at Dopo, but our visit this time around was exceptional, and convinced me that we really need to make a point of going more often—and of trying Adesso, Dopo’s new sibling up the street (also by chef-owner Jon Smulewitz, who’s an Oliveto alum). At 9 pm on a Thursday night, there was astoundingly no wait—the first time this has ever happened at Dopo. (A friend who was joining us joked that he was loving the recession because he can finally go eat at all his favorite spots without committing an hour to waiting in line….) Our friend also easily eats as much as D. and I combined, which was great because it meant we basically just ran down most of the menu and got to try all sorts of things. Among them:

  • Sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, currants, and pine nuts—absolutely amazing!
  • Raviolone filled with asparagus and a farm egg—also phenomenal; the egg was actually inside the pasta, which was cooked just enough to be tender but let the egg yolk run into the blissful sauce. The kitchen had accidentally prepared a second order, and the first was so good that our friend flagged the waiter down and had him bring back the second plate. A bit pricey for two giant raviolone, but an especially stellar dish.
  • Burrata with artichoke—quite tasty, but a little on the small side for $12.
  • Two pizzas, one with sausage and a tomato sauce base, and one with artichokes and pancetta sans sauce (I think?)—Dopo classics with the light crispy crust and excellent house-made meats we’ve come to expect there, but less exciting than the other dishes. If pizza’s the primary target, I still think Marzano is a better bet.
  • A salad that was good but that I’m honestly completely blanking on. But it was good!
  • A plate of pickled beets. Yah, sounds weird, but ohhhhh so good! D. (who is a beet hater) even consented to add beets to his pickling adventures (which will have to be a post in their own right one of these days).
  • Lemon ricotta zeppole and espresso panna cotta, both yummy—though the zeppole really needed some fruity dipping sauce to complement them. (Specifically raspberry, according to D.)

Dopo also has a nice assortment of beers and wines, although most are Italian (appropriately, but perhaps not conveniently for lovers of local breweries and vineyards). This time around, I tried a sparkling red, which was the perfect wine for a wannabe-summer April night. I should add that one of my favorite things about the Dopo space is the many outdoor or quasi-outdoor tables they have; if you’re willing to wait for one, it’s the perfect alfresco summer dining option. You can choose between the quiet side patio and the people-watching tables along Piedmont depending on your mood. We’ll definitely make it a point to head back this summer! And, though we always opt to eat in at Dopo, they do also offer their Italian staples as takeout options—not a bad plan for a nice dinner at home.

Grade: A
Price: $$$

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3 comments

  1. We loved Dopo the time we went, but our problem is that there are so many great-sounding new (and new to us) restaurants in Oakland to try.


  2. Yup, we have the same problem, especially living where we do in the triangle of Uptown, Piedmont Ave, and Grand Lake, which all seem to be spawning new restaurants at record pace. This last Dopo visit did seem a notch above our previous visits, though, so I think it’s risen on the list—maybe they’re responding to the onslaught of competition!


  3. Sad postscript: today’s paper reports that Vital Life Services is shutting its doors after over 25 years of providing HIV/AIDS services in the East Bay due to slashed state and federal funding and much less donor (and Dining Out for Life) support than they’ve had in the past. 😦



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