Other Reviews


A Caveat

Summary: Inconsistent Italian food in a lively atomsphere


Being a mom is tough (surprise, surprise) and sometimes you need time to unwind. That's why every so often my friends Katrina, Parker, Eddie and I get together for a mom's night out. This time (February 2007) Eddie suggested we go to Spettro's and everybody happily concurred. Apparently Spettro's is an institution; it's been there for a long time, and used to be the preferred hunting grounds of Parker and her husband Donovan in their pre-kids Oakland days. Katrina also used to frequent it and Eddie had gone to dinner there just last week and had really liked it. So Spettro's it was.

Spettro's is a rather casual place, with large chalkboards on its bare brick wall announcing the day's desserts and specials. The tables are so crowded that they might as well be all community tables - save for the small "booths" on the side, good really for only a couple of people. The atmosphere is extremely lively and loud, very loud, shout to your companions loud. Indeed, this would be a good place to bring loud children as nobody would hear them. And indeed, Spettro's is known as a family friendly place, for which reason - as avoiding kids is the whole raison d'etre of our mom's night out - we decided to go at around 8:30 - 9 PM on a Friday night, and stopped for drinks at di bartolo first.

When we got there, the place was still packed, but there were fewer children than earlier in the evening. We were seated right away and the waitress very quickly came back to open our bottles of wine (there is no corkage fee for the first bottle you bring, and only $5 for the second one). Indeed, service was friendly and professional throughout the evening.

Their menu is eclectic, to say the least. It changes from time to time, though some of their signature dishes have been there for years. We started by sharing an order of the gnocchi (Baked Potato Gnocchi With Cream And Parmesan Cheese Sauce - $9). The sauce reminded me of a bechamel sauce, but it was so rich that I was glad we were all sharing. The gnocchi themselves were light and the whole dish was very nice.

For dinner I had the blueberry ribs ($16), and while I liked them, I found the sauce too strong, and the mashed potatoes too scant to provide much needed relief. Still, it was a good dish.

Katrina had the salmon, on special that night, which was described by the waitress as a very healthy dish - it came with vegetables on the side - and she felt that it fit the bill. She was quite happy with it.

Parker was also very pleased with her tofu stir fry ($13). She liked the combination of the flavors and thought it was wonderful

Eddie had a pizza - or two pizzas in one - but she can't remember what kind they were. She also thought they were very good and was impressed that they were willing to give her half of each kind.

We were too full for dessert, but I really would have liked to try it.

In all, we had a great time and great food at Spettro's, and I definitely would like to go back again - maybe even with the kids.

Update August 2007:

I went back to Spettro on a Friday night in late August 2007. I knew the place was child-friendly and since we were bringing our two kids that was especially important to me. Our friends Regina and Boris came along. We found the place to be as loud and buzzing as the time before - though the food was definitely mediocre, so much so, that I wouldn't go back.

The baked gnocchi ($9), which I ordered as an appetizer, was still superb. It was light and airy, and had an alluring cream cheese sauce. Mike doesn't like gnocchi so he didn't eat any, but he loved the cheese, which he could scoop out. The kids, who are gnocchi eaters, were less keen on them. Everything else, however, failed. A Caesar salad and a Piedmont salad (both $5 for small sizes) were pedestrian and lacked uumph. The entrees weren't much better. I had the chicken marsala ($15), a dish that I love when done properly, but this one lacked flavor. The sauce was very mild, and while you could distinguish the marsala flavor, it was overwhelmed by the cream. Boris wasn't that happy with his blueberry ribs, which I had enjoyed on the previous occasion. He also found them bland and unexciting, and felt there was very little meat on the bones. Regina's Piedmont pizza lacked the advertised kalamata olives and also lacked flavor. She barely ate any of it. Mike ordered Diego's Chilis, "Roasted Pablano Chili With Shredded Beef, Queso Fresco, and Corn Topped With Cilantro Cream Sauce, Served With Green Rice and Sauteed Chard" ($14). He thought he was actually ordering chili, so the dish of stuffed chilis was a surprise, but he thought it was very good. He did think it needed more meat, and it wasn't as spicy as he expected. He wouldn't order them again, but only because there were other things on the menu that intrigued him.

Finally, we ordered a child's pizza ($6) from the kids menu. I didn't think it was particularly exciting, but the kids ate one slice each (the pizza has 4 small slices).

For dessert (all $5), I had ordered the dark chocolate cake a la mode, but it was so stale I couldn't eat it. The kids had the strawberry cheesecake, which was quite good - as cheesecake should be.

We had a beautiful bottle of Merlot that we had brought with us, and it was probably the best part of the meal.

Service was adequate but very hurried. Our waiter forgot to bring the kids their apple juice, but it wasn't too major an inconvenience. The foccacia style bread buns that they bring with butter are very good when hot, though not when cold.

In all, it wasn't a great meal, but it's always nice to eat with Boris and Regina.

3355 Lakeshore Ave
Oakland, CA
(510) 451-7738