The last time we heard from Jon Kosorek, he had just closed Marrow (325 19th St.), a miraculous little sandwich shop in Uptown Oakland where he would butcher a whole pig and turn it, variously, into porchetta sandwiches, tacos, and seared head-cheese breakfast plates. But Marrow never quite caught on the way that Kosorek had hoped, and a series of challenges in the chef's personal life helped solidify his decision to close in July.
Now, Kosorek is ready to reopen the restaurant, but this time with a more low-key concept that he believes is a better fit for the neighborhood. Buma's Pizzeria will be, in Kosorek's words, a "very simple frickin' New York-style pizzeria" that will serve slices, whole pies, and New York-style buffalo wings. The restaurant will also deliver to a fairly large portion of Oakland.
"There's nothing fancy about what we're going to be doing at all," Kosorek said.
Kosorek explained that after he closed Marrow, he had hoped to make a clean break and sell the space outright, recouping a chunk of the money he'd put into the restaurant. But he never got a reasonable offer, so Kosorek decided he might as well convert the space into what he'd come to believe it should have been all along. "You walk in those doors, and it just sort of feels like it should be a pizzeria," he explained.
Kosorek, a native of Albany, New York, said he grew up eating the kind of pizza he hopes to recreate at Buma's — with a crust that's crunchy and chewy, and that flops a little bit when you pick up a slice. The dough will be made with a long fermentation process, using a natural starter that Kosorek said he's been cultivating for the past three years. And, unlike the stereotypical California-style pizza shop, Buma's will keep things simple as far as toppings are concerned: "There will be no duck confit or pomegranate," he said. "Nothing weird."
Kosorek, who is also the former proprietor of the food truck Jon's Street Eats, explained that with his whole-animal ethos at Marrow, he felt at times like he was fighting the industrial food system just to make a point. As a result, he wound up serving food that many people in the neighborhood felt was too fancy and expensive. At Buma's, Kosorek said he'll still use good ingredients, but he doesn't want to push any agenda. "I want to take away all the bullshit," he said.
That's not to say that Buma's won't also be dedicated to a cause: The restaurant is named after Bahram "Buma" Morid, a close friend of Kosorek's who recently died after a long battle with brain cancer. One percent of the restaurant's gross sales will be donated to support brain cancer research.
Kosorek said he isn't planning a major renovation on the space, but he did have to install some new equipment — most significantly, a Marsal gas deck pizza oven. To help pay for that expense, he recently launched a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign that will run through midnight on New Year's Eve. As of Tuesday morning, the crowdfunding campaign had already exceeded its target.
If all else goes well, Buma's will open in early January.
New Year's Day Eats
So many column inches are devoted each year to the bacchanalian excesses of New Year's Eve, I won't waste your time with yet another roundup. (That said, by all means check out the Express' NYE roundup "Out with the Old, In with the New," 12/10/14.)
But what about when you wake up on New Year's Day, groggy-eyed and famished, your empty fridge staring you in the face like another year's worth of regret? When it comes to finding a restaurant that's open on New Year's Day, it's slim pickings to say the least, but here are a handful of East Bay options.
If we were to limit our search to restaurants I'd be happy to eat at even under normal circumstances, Oakland's Grand Lake Kitchen (576 Grand Ave.) would probably top the list. The lakeside restaurant-deli will be open on New Year's Day from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. as it is every Thursday, but to provide a sense of occasion, the restaurant's weekend brunch menu — pastrami Benedicts and all — will be available until 3 p.m.
Over on the other side of Lake Merritt, Lake Chalet (1520 Lakeside Dr.) — home to what are perhaps the nicest views of the lake in town — will open at 10 a.m. for an über-fancy New Year's Day brunch. (See my food event pick, "New Year's Day Brunch," for additional details.)
The Terrace Room (1800 Madison St.) is promoting its "New Year's Day Recovery Brunch," which starts at 10 a.m. and touts, among other allures, bottomless mimosas and bottomless Bloody Marys. This is another "view restaurant," with windows overlooking the lake, but brunch was the most enjoyable meal I ate there when I reviewed the place in 2012. And the Temescal wine bar Marc 49 (4915 Telegraph Ave.) will serve an all-you-can-eat brunch buffet from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. — $18 for adults, $10 for kids.
If your stomach is strong enough to endure a boat ride, Hornblower Cruises is doing a $72 champagne brunch cruise that will set sail from Berkeley Marina at noon on New Year's Day.
Finally, there's Oakland Chinatown, which, like the bulk of the East Bay's authentic Asian eateries, pays no mind to the Western holiday calendar. For something quick and simple, head straight to Tian Jin Dumplings (989 Franklin St., Ste. B) for some pork buns or a few dozen dumplings. Of course, it's traditional to eat dumplings for Chinese New Year — but why not get off to an early start?