Tucked away in an unexpected corner of Berkeley, Riva Cucina puts out delightful, Northern Italian food. The owners go to Italy every year and pursue their passion for discovering and creating high quality offerings. Cheese making, wine tasting, field trips to salumficio, etc. Their commitment to fresh, authentic ingredients shine through. We went with our friends Robert and Lisa on a rainy weeknight. Although I saw these pictures on their site and would love to go back when the sun is shining.
We ordered a selection of antipasti and contorni to start. Interesting tastes of artichokes, Brussels spouts, arancini di riso (savory fried balls of alchemically fused rice, cheese and eggplant), diver scallops daintily perched on their shells after having been succulently prepared. And that was just the opening act! The pasta dishes arrived fragrant, tender and each a plate of artful delights! I sampled Xandria's pasta and found it toothsome with a bolonese sauce patiently simmered with just the right (non basil) spices and pork and beef to add richness.
And best of all, our server Amy offered clever wine pairings. I was very pleased with the 2006 PATIANNA SAUVIGNON BLANC I was given when asked for chef's recommendation.. The nose was all grapefruit and tar. I like that in a sauvvy blanc. The flavors were grapefruit with subtle spice. Bright. clear, pale yellow in color with a pleasant almost silky mouthfeel, it was a great pairing with the butternut squash Capellacci. Brown butter and sage deliciousness!
Bonus! New Century club entry! Riva Cucina offers great selection of desserts (we got the chocolate cake and four spoons) Xandria and I split a glass of the 2002 Latinia Late Harvest Nasco. Nasco is a Sardinian varietal that produces perfumey, smooth, sweet wines. This was no exception with its fragrant vanilla and caramel infused aroma. As well, this Late Harvest had hints of exotic spice and a slight touch of citrus; its sweetness, pleasantly assertive without being cloying. The Latinia looked like tawny port with a bronzey color. Unusual and delectable.
Comfortable. Sophisticated. Yummy food. Interesting, carefully matched wines. Friendly, knowledgeable service. What more could you ask?
800 HEINZ AVENUE, 19
BERKELEY CA 94710