How often do you think about what region your food comes from? I mostly think about it for specific countries that I am familiar with and admittedly, the thought didn't cross my mind much for Italian food until I had dinner at Desco, a restaurant in Old Oakland that focuses on highlighting food from the many different regions of Italy.
To give you some history, Desco's Executive Chef and proprietor Donato Scotti is known best for his restaurant Donato Enoteca in Redwood City, which I'm already a huge fan of. He grew up in the small town of Bergamo in Italy and studied at the Instituto Alberghiero di San Pellegrino culinary school.
What you can expect at Desco is to be greeted with a beautiful space, smiles, and classical Italian music playing in the background. The pastas served are made fresh every single day. There's also a wood-oven used for making Neapolitan pizza and schiacciate, an Italian bread. The wine list at Desco is comprised entirely of Italian varietals, with 50 selections, about 20 of which are poured by the glass. The full bar showcases classic cocktails, amaro and traditional Italian aperitivi and digestivi. There is also an afternoon happy hour with Italian bar snacks.
For the month of February (through 2/17 except 2/14), they are offering a prix-fixe menu nicely priced at $36 that they're calling "Carnevale A Desco". This particular menu ends soon, but Desco is planning to offer a new "Carnevale" menu each month showcasing other regional festivals and cuisines.
We were invited as guests of the house to try out the prix-fixe menu and our experience was excellent from start to finish. The food is unique, the staff is knowledgeable, and the restaurant is located in one of my favorite parts of Oakland. Here's a look at what we had for dinner. The photos didn't turn out great because it was too dim in there, but I hope you still enjoy them.
The Food & Wine
We started off dinner with some bubbly. The pairings couldn't be more perfect. We were poured wines from the same regions as the dishes served.
The wood-oven house made bread is served in a brown paper bag with some nice olive oil, balsamic, and house made tapenade.
Carnevale Di Venezia
We begin with a traditional Venetian Cicchetti of salted cod mantecato, black riso Venere fritters, marinated white anchovies and radicchio puree, and chicken liver pate' Venetian style.
- The salted cod is thick and creamy enough to be a chowder. but delicate in flavor. It has a very nice smooth texture and similar characteristics to brandade.
- The fried black risotto is crispy outside and rich inside, loved the melted cheese on top. The briny anchovies combined with the bitter radicchio makes it almost taste like deep bitter liver pate.
- We finished with the sweet, creamy and dreamy chicken liver pate.
The wine is poured into the glass from a small decanter shortly before our next course and Patrick takes time to enjoy the nose.
This dish is a traditional Piedmontese Agnolotti del Plin with a veal demi-glace, sage pesto and blood orange zest. The agnolotti was very unique and unlike anything we've had before. It's a flattened pasta that's thick and doughy with a nice chew. The wild boar, rabbit and veal filling takes 5 hours to make because each meat is braised individually. It was wonderful.
We were told that this dish was such a hit that they may consider continuing it on their normal menu.
For dessert, we enjoyed a duo of traditional Lombardi dolcetti of organic apples and pine nuts fried dough on top of a lemon creme and baked Chiacchiere. The fried biscuit-like dough was buttery and crisp, not sweet. Patrick says, "The thickness of the biscuit was satisfying in the way that it slowly snaps. It's like a predecessor to a donut."
The chiacchiere is most known in the Roma area, but it's served as a snack all over Italy during carnivale season.
The next time I go out for Italian food, I'm going to ask the waiter what region the dish originates from. Desco has inspired me to seek out and explore the food of Italy by region and I am grateful for that experience. It was really fun to honor each region's food. You can bet that we'll be back soon.
I also have to mention that the pacing of each course served was perfect. We finished dinner in less than an hour and thirty minutes.
Thanks so much for dinner, Desco!
499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 - 9:30
Friday: 11:30 - 10:30
Saturday: 3:00 - 10:30
Sunday: 3:00 - 9:00