Given the American obsession with regional cuisines, Italian being one of the most thoroughly represented, it's surprising that Sicily has not gotten its due in the Bay Area. We've got SPQR and Locanda dishing up Roman food, La Ciccia occupying Sardegna, Rose Pistola still cooking Ligurian-style, Da Flora conjuring Venice, and A16 cornering the market on Campania. But Sicily, the largest island in the whole Mediterranean, has somehow gotten short shrift. Until now.
Actually, Jon Smulewitz, chef and co-owner of Dopo with his wife, Kayta Smulewitz, has been creating Sicilian-leaning menus since the casual, always-buzzing spot opened 12 years ago on Oakland's Piedmont Avenue. Jon's grandfather is from Montalbano in the Province of Messina and his grandmother hails from Petralia Soprana in Palermo, and Jon and Kayta visit the island regularly. Over the years, they've made friends with winemakers and restaurateurs, so Jon thinks this transition was somewhat inevitable. Still, it seemed like a big plunge to return from a trip and say to his staff, "Let's go for it. Let's offer an entirely Sicilian menu right down to the wine list."
And while they were at it, they converted to a no-tipping policy as well. So, if the prices seem high, remember: Your tip is already figured in. And this cooking is at such a high level, it's worth every penny.
The most noticeable change is the design of the menu, whose centerpiece is now antipasti. You have the choice of selecting the cold or hot set ($19 per person for either or $35 for both). Each set is comprised of six perfect bites. It doesn't sound as filling as it is.
We started with both hot and cold, and the cold set items arrived in fairly rapid succession, beginning with a beautiful tuna crudo, room-temperature, cubed fish mixed lightly with thin slices of Valencia orange, cayenne, oregano and celery.