If Oakland is west-coast Brooklyn, then Jack London Square might be little New Jersey. And here, inside Lungomare, Meadow Soprano could probably fit her whole wedding party. Tony would complain about how it wasn’t Nuovo Vesuvio but not bad, not bad at all.
Lungomare occupies the corner that Miss Pearl’s Jam House tried to make happen. It has some challenges – not enough foot traffic and huge space (120 seats, 80 more outdoors) – but beautiful waterfront views and lovely design work in its favor.
Chef Craig Difonzo is bringing fresh and modern flavors to this new restaurant and Chris Pastena, co-owner of Lungomare as well as two other Oakland eateries, (Chop Bar and Tribune Tavern) brings large-size enthusiasm and genuine warmth.
Lungomare is inspired by Pastena’s Italian roots and visits to Italy. The food and wine reflect this, and at the event we came for, “Dine and Unwind,” we were served wines by Vinity, an importer that specializes in Italian wines.
On our prix fixe menu, we were treated to refreshing cold melon soup with a homemade grissini “straw.” Wrapped in prosciutto, it was delicious. Almost anything wrapped in prosciutto is.
Then we had a “carpaccio of local halibut with heirloom cherry tomatoes, mint and watermelon” but the halibut seemed a bit tough. I ate mine and it was good, fine, but I don’t think my friend Jen had much of hers. We didn’t talk about it.
I got the salmon, per the menu, and Jen ordered a pizza which turned out to be a fun departure.
From its very name “pizza” to how we interact with it (grab it with hands and leave crusts if we feel like it) pizza is a kids’ fun food no matter how fancy it’s served. Lungomare’s is upscale and with a fennel-in-the-crust twist to make it more adult and serious.
Glad we tried it. I enjoyed my salmon, especially the fava pistou which was divine and I could have eaten a small bowl of it. The fig tart with mascarpone ice cream was a perfect ending.
Now for the wine. Italian wines are hard because there are so many unfamiliar names and varieties. The white served with the halibut salad was Case Ibidini, Insolia, from Sicily. It was divine, perfect on a balmy Oakland night.
Angelino Sandri from Vinity explained the wines to us with the patience of a kindergarten teacher. Then we were given two reds to taste with our main course, which is a bit odd I think. One, the Sangiovese blend, Poderi, San Lazzaro, Sangiovese, Marche, was really excellent, the other one, Case Ibidini, Nero d’Avolia, Sicily was, as my daughter might say, “not my favorite.”
Dessert wine is not my thing, but a few swallows of the Venturini, Recioto della Valpolicella Classico, which (we learned) is a sweeter version of the classic Amarone, turned out to be a winning combination with the fig tart and mascarpone ice cream.
Dine and Unwind is part of a series of dinners offered in Oakland. The one at Lungomare gave a portion of the proceeds to My Yute Soccer, a youth soccer organization and camp in Oakland committed to spreading the love and skills of soccer within a context of diverse cultures and economics.
If you want to dine and lounge by the water without hipsters in your way, at a place you’d just as soon see a guy in an A’s shirt or a suit, give Lungomare a try.
If you go:
One Broadway, Oakland, 94607
Jack London Square
Granate Sosnoff is a nonprofit communications professional frequently in need of a good glass of wine.