Oakland's most interesting new restaurant is now closed, and I am surprisingly sad about it. Salsipuedes wasn't the best restaurant to open last year, but it might have been my favorite simply for its commitment to serving weird shit. It was a strange restaurant, and I'm sure that was a big part of its downfall. Its neighborhood surely wasn't ready for a fairly pricey spot serving lots of seaweed and natural wines. But Salsipuedes was getting better and better, and I'm sure that it would fit right in in the Longfellow of 3 years from now. It's a damn shame it couldn't hold out that long.
However, I did have what may have been my best meal of 2016 so far at Belotti, the new pasta-centric restaurant in Rockridge. It's almost the opposite of Salsipuedes — Belotti is unequivocally Italian, and is in no way trying to be weird. But it holds fast to its identity just as Salsipuedes did. So perhaps they are not that different.
I started with a couple of glasses of rose — the number was unintentional, I swear! There was a mix-up with my drink order, so my server brought me both pink wine options. My favorite was the sparkling brut rose from Veneto. Then we shared a massive butter lettuce salad with just a bit of Grana Padano, pine nuts, and some edible flowers. Usually I really hate it when salads are very sparsely dressed, but this one worked. The lettuce was so fresh that I almost felt like I had brought some cheese and nuts out to a garden and plucked lettuce leaves up one by one to eat with the toppings.
Obviously we ate pasta as well, two of them. The chef, Michel Belotti, specializes in Northern Italian filled pastas, so one of those — the agnolotti (above) was a must-order. And will always and forever be a must-order. I have no idea how all of the meats and vegetables listed as ingredients on the menu made it into the incredibly egg-rich fresh pasta dough, but it makes for an intoxicating combination. Especially when served in the stupid good Parm-beef stock reduction that coats every nook and cranny of the pasta. If I had eaten this at home, I would absolutely have stuck my face in the bowl and licked it clean. (I know that sounds like a cliche but it is so, so true, goddamn it.)
Not quite as good, but still better than any other pasta I've eaten in a restaurant here, was the tagliolini — tajarin pasta with porcini, tomatoes, and peaches. I was unsure about how the peach situation would work out because every piece of stone fruit in the universe is still rock hard in April, however, once cooked with what seemed like a full stick of butter, they turned just sweet enough to pair with the earthy mushrooms.
Somewhere in here, we ordered more wine — this time a bold, juicy Umbrian red.
After pasta, there was pork. Belotti served the suckling pig skin on, shellacked in some kind of gelatin-rich stock-balsamic sauce. Sautéed spinach and green onion gave the plate some color and a nod towards, I dunno, balance. The pork itself was moist and almost-but-not-quite too salty, but the real winner was that crisp skin. Give me more pork skin.
For dessert, very simple, just-set panna cotta with strawberries. The kitchen divided it into two demitasse cups for easy sharing. It was nice, but not terribly memorable. Also our server brought over a gratis amaro because BELOTTI IS A GREAT RESTAURANT.
You should go there, but don't steal my window table. Thanks.