Have you been to Caffe 817 lately? Opened in 1993, this sunny hangout in Old Oakland changed hands last year. While the name and the Italian inspiration remains the name, new owners Scott and Emily Goldenberg have made the place their own. The couple, who met while both were working as sous-chefs at Zuni Cafe, are dedicated to bringing their love for local flavors and housemade products to downtown Oakland. At a recent breakfast for food writers and bloggers hosted by Oakland Local, Scott and Emily showcased a few of their favorite brunch items and talked about what they're trying to do.
But first, what's that alluring, elusive flavor--not cinnamon--in that bowl of crunchy, not-too-sweet organic granola? It's cardamom, a legacy of Emily's Norwegian heritage. (Throughout Scandanavia, cardamom is a commonly addition to sweet breads and morning pastries.) Nutmeg's in there, and an herby-citrusy burst of coriander, too, tossed into a hearty mix of organic nuts, seeds, and grains.
Granola may not be Italian, but the coffee certainly is, or at least as Italian as you can get without leaving the West Coast. The Goldenbergs stock Mr. Espresso beans, which Emily describes as "as local as local can be," since their beans are roasted over oak just a few blocks away on 3rd Street close to Jack London Square. The family-run business was founded by the Italian-born Carlo Di Ruocco, who got his start as an importer of espresso machines. The Di Ruocco family "come in for coffee all the time," Emily notes, while praising the "real Italian profile" of their beans. The Di Ruoccos were one of the first roasters in the area to source organic and certified fair-trade beans.