Thursday, October 22, 2009

Berkeley's Eccolo Gone but Not Forgotten

Thu, Oct 22, 2009 at 12:22 PM

Sadly, one of Berkeley's favorite restaurants closed earlier this year. Eccolo, which sat front and center on Berkeley's 4th Street shopping district, closed its doors August 9, and fans are still mourning its demise. Chris Lee, an ex-chef at Chez Panisse, jump-started Eccolo with a menu of vibrant and local organic dishes. Patrons returned for exotic bites such as soppressata (Italian dry cured salami), zampone (stuffed pigs trotter), and porchetta di testa (slow braised pigs head). Eccolo's yellow awning and bright décor will be missed by lunchtime 4th Street employees, who snacked on crispy potato strings and made business deals over delicious lemon drops.



Eccolo even abided by the local movement, hiring local employees, using local farms, and preparing lunches for local schools. So why did Eccolo close if its reviews were celebratory and its work-philosophy positive? As Sous chef Samin Nosrat told the Chronicle, "Eventually, it became clear my careful attempts at cost-cutting weren't nearly enough. We either had to start serving many more people each day, or dramatically lower our costs. By this time, we'd already tried everything we could to attract diners - lower prices, happy hour, an extended bar menu, more comfort foods, you name it. None of it did much good. The only choices that remained were to buy lesser ingredients and replace our cooks with cheap labor." But cutting back in those areas didn't sit well with the Alice Waters-schooled Lee, and he opted to close the restaurant instead, making Eccolo yet another victim of the poor economy.

--Alison Alter

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