Usually I don't write about restaurant openings because really, what can you say? An opening is just a chance to get a sneak peek and a bite and that's usually it. But last Friday's opening of Riva Cucina in Berkeley was a little different, for me anyway.
Chef Massimiliano Boldrini is from Emilia Romagna and there were lots of signs that his new restaurant will be a taste of that region, which is known for luscious cuisine. Starting off on the right foot, they served a sparkling red Lambrusco instead of Prosecco or Asti. If you haven't tried this lovely and refreshing wine you're in for a treat. On a warm day like Friday it was just perfect.
The chef was serving up a delicious creamy pasta with prosciutto and asparagus. The pasta was al dente, flavorful and reminded me more of pasta I've eaten in Italy than pasta I've eaten in the US. The other bites were tasty as well, some citrusy salmon, savory crostini with a sausage topping, a skewered version of salad Caprese and crisp crema fritta, a dessert I have never seen on any menus in the Bay Area. In a word, yum.
The regular menu features inexpensive pastas, panini and a few roasted items. I was pleased to see they will be serving Snake River Farms beef (the same beef I had at the French Laundry) and Kurobata pork. Both are great Japanese style, produced-in-America ingredients but will undoubtedly be cooked with a true Italian sensibility. While it's too soon for a real review, I have to admit my hopes are high for Riva Cucina.