Wine, delicous food, and friends. I had them all last night as I visited the newly opened Enoteca Molinari. The small wine bar was well lit, yet cozy and comfortable. The large white slate bar top, separating the kitchen from the eating area, was a welcoming layout as we entered off of the busy College Avenue in Oakland. Joe Molinari, the friendly and talkative thirty-something owner was pouring wine himself, and gave us a huge smile and a welcoming wave as the door closed behind us. We grabbed the last few open bar stools in the front window, as we waited a few minutes for Joe to make room for us at the last four spots at the bar (the last four spots in the entire place). The other two waitresses and the chef were all busy preparing food, and serving it up to the eagerly awaiting room full of customers.
We ordered some fantastic wines, including one very smooth and flavorful COS Rami from Sicily, and a refreshing and dry Lambrusco. There was no need for the wine list to be overly extensive, but instead it was definitely more than adequate. There are some great wines at good prices. Joe will also be more than helpful in pairing your wines with your food if you should desire. For dinner, we ordered the baked ricotta, the pork ragu, and the chickpea fritters. All were unbelievably fantastic. The ricotta was baked in a small round and set on top of warm shredded, olive oil covered radicchio, surrounded by four small oiled baguette slices. The ragu was served in a wide bowl and was a warm, rich saucy dish of tender slow-cooked pork, with farro. The chickpea fritters were crispy on the outside and warm and buttery on the inside. All of the dishes were full of freshness and the flavors all melded perfectly.
Finally, two hours and eight wine glasses later, we decided to top off the night with the special Biscotti di Natale (Christmas cookies). We received a small plate of three different cookies, a walnut biscotto, a walnut sugar cookie dipped in dark chocolate, and an almond ball covered in thin sliced almonds and powdered sugar. All were rich, flaky and fresh out of the oven.
Joe put in lots of time and effort into preparing Enoteca Molinari for its opening week, and it shows. While all new businesses may have their kinks to work out, Enoteca Molinari definitely has the quality ironed out. Next time you find yourself in the Bay Area, or more specifically in the quaint district of Rockridge, in Oakland, take a little time out to relax by having a glass of wine at Molinari's. As we paid our bill and put on our coats, Joe ran out from behind the bar to thank us, giving us each a big hug. "We will be back very soon!" we shouted out happy, as we began our stumbling, wine filled walk home. Joe waved us goodbye from the door, then rushed back inside still smiling, to tend to the rest of the bar.