I hesitated writing this post because Adesso is one of those places you don't necessarily want everyone to know about. I like it so much just the way it is: you can generally still find a seat, the bartenders still have a little time to chat, and the service is fantastic. But it's so good, in fact, that I can't help sharing, writing, raving.
Although the design and approach are quite different, Adesso is owned by the same folks who own adjacent beloved Italian restaurant, Dopo. Here, however, you'll find a more casual atmosphere with a real focus on salumi, pates, antipasti, piadinis, and expertly-crafted cocktails with housemade bitters and infused liquors. It's is a place to come mid-day for one of their few sandwiches--to sit and wile away an afternoon. A place where regulars are greeted and the pace slows, even on busy Piedmont Avenue in Oakland.
Adesso is also a place to come between the hours of 5 p.m.-6 p.m. or 11:00 p.m to 12:00 a.m. for their "Apertivo Hour." I've fallen in love with these times of the day. Truly. Reason #1: strong, smart, thoughtful cocktails. This goes a long way with me. My friend Danielle and I sat at the bar and had a chance to talk at great length with bartender Hanjiro Ambrose about the cocktail menu and the drinks he's created. I learned all about amaro and potato-based gins.
Danielle ordered the Provencale with lavender-infused gin, vermouth and cointreau. It was light and floral but not at all too syrupy or sweet. After telling Hanjiro I was into Bourbon and had lately really fallen for Aperol, he made me a cocktail with bourbon, Aperol, apricot liquor and bitters. It was incredible. He loves chatting with customers about what they like to drink or what they're curious about, and he'll custom-tailor cocktails just for you. For my second drink of the evening, I tried the Amari Cola on the regular menu which Hanjiro had concocted after hearing the story of the Coca Cola recipe on This American Life. He was inspired to put together a cocktail with a similar flavor profile and he's succeeded wildly with this blend of rye, cynar and ramazzotti amaro, grenadine, lemon, soda and a little mint. It's refreshing as a summer morning; go there. Try it.
Unlike most bars and restaurants, the cocktails and drinks aren't discounted during Apertivo Hour. However, the staff brings you small plates of foccaccia, salumi, salads, and pate to try. And this, my friends, is Reason #2 to fall hard for Adesso: free, incredible food. Danielle and I had the chance to sample the olive focaccia and the Ciccici pate which, as one of the bartenders said, is good they've all coined it "meat butter." It's made of pork shoulder which is reduced way down until it really is the consistency of butter. I actually don't generally love pates, but this was an exception.
Next our waiter brought out the squid and fennel salad: a fresh, summery dish-- the perfect balance to some of the saltier salumi. And of course, the piadina. This might have been my favorite, actually. The piadina is essentially a grilled flatbread and is quite popular as a casual on-the-go snack in Italy. The folks at Adesso roll the flatbread into more of a sandwich: ours had sausage and chiles and was just what we needed after a few strong cocktails.
After having my half of the piadina, I realized the genius in bringing you out bites to try: you're going to want to order more. Sure, if you weren't starving, you could absolutely make a small meal of the spread, but we ended up ordering a Salumi Plate with our second cocktail that consisted of a billowy burrata, pate, and three different kinds of salumi with sliced bread.
By the time we looked up from our lovely plates and empty cocktail glasses, Adesso had filled up with just a few open seats remaining. The place was filled with a great, vibrant, laid-back energy with couples and friends meeting to catch up and to revel in the playful air of early-summer possibility. For me, much of that possibility lies in many more Apertivo Hours at Adesso. I'll see you there.
4395 Piedmont Ave
(at the corner of Pleasant Valley Road)
Oakland, CA 94611
Dining Hours: Mon-Wed. 5:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.; Thu-Sat. 5:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Happy Hour: Mon-Wed. 5-6pm and 10:30-11:30pm; Thur-Sat. 5-6pm and 11-12pm