Berkeley Neighborhoods Council
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On the Neighborhood Food Prowl
In each Berkeley Neighborhoods Council eNEWS edition, our BNC reviewer (who will always be anonymous) will include a review of a favorite neighborhood food business. Our choice for this issue is in the North Berkeley Solano Avenue Shopping District. Drum roll please…
This restaurant opened on Solano Avenue in 1994 and continues to thrive to this day under the culinary skills of chef/owner, Wendy Brucker and management skills of Owner/General Manager, Roscoe Skipper who is also a Certified Sommelier in the Court of Master Sommeliers.
It is said that the name for their restaurant was chosen because Wendy and Roscoe once stayed in Paris close to the Rue de Rivoli which was named after the town where Napoleon defeated the Austrians. The both liked the name, Rivoli because it was “lively” and “lyrical.”
Recognized for its food and service, Rivoli has been featured in Gourmet, BonAppetit and the San Francisco Chronicle magazines, the New York Times and Los Angeles Times newspapers, and included in the 100 Best Restaurants in the Bay Area selected by the San Francisco Chronicle every year since 1996. It also has received a rating of 27 out of 30 points in the Zagat Guide, and has received a 2014 Michelin Bib Gourmand Award and recognition as a City of Berkeley Green Business. All of this, however, only confirms this reviewer's view that after years of eating at Rivoli, she has never been disappointed in the food, the service or the ambiance of the restaurant itself.
The menu changes about every three weeks because the chef shops locally and uses products that are fresh and seasonal. Three of us went there a few days ago and had the Portobello Mushroom Fritters ($12) and Caesar Salad ($11). Both are signature dishes so they are always on the menu and easily shared. This reviewer had for an entree the Slow Roasted Rosemary and Garlic Pork Roast which included pumpkin spaetzle, roast Brussels sprouts and carrots, persimmon quince compote and pepita brittle ($23). Another had the Grilled Flat Iron Steak, with Yorkshire bread pudding, baby spinach, bacon and onion jam and horseradish sour cream ($26). The third person had Grilled Swordfish, with olive oil fried potatoes, kabocha squash puree, fennel, marcona almond and radish salad and anise beurre blanc ($24). We all had a great time sampling each other's dishes and declared them all to be fantastic.
For dessert, my two companions had to have the Hot Fudge Sundae ($9.50) which is also one of Rivoli's signature dishes and the Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with huckleberry compote, graham flour crust and lemon syrup ($9.50) which they shared. Feeling full, I opted for a glass of ice-cold, slightly effervescent Moscato D'Asti ElviaTintero, from Piedmont, Italy 2011 ($8). It was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal, light and refreshing.
While the menu frequently changes, there are usually 6 different entrees to choose from - always a vegetarian choice, and usually a poultry, fish, beef and pork dish. One of them will be a braised dish, and I have never found that this choice wasn't excellent, and that Wendy's soups are literally out of this world. The wine list is extensive with many choices that are modestly priced and Roscoe will help you select.
The setting matches the food. The whole back wall is windows that face into a beautiful garden of trees and shrubs exquisitely lit for your enjoyment while soft light jazz plays in the background.
This reviewer gives Rivoli's a strong 5 out of 5 rating, no matter what time of year.