The Inside Scoop on Café Fanny's Replacement
After a 28-year run, legendary California chef Alice Waters closed Café Fanny in Berkley this past March. A few weeks later, Waters and Kermit Lynch (who is still the landlord of the building) signed a lease with Suzanne Drexhage to open a new venture in the space.
Drexhage, who formerly worked at Chez Panisse and Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, plans to open Bartavelle Coffee & Wine Bar officially by July. The concept will include a seasonal menu and thoughtfully curated coffee and wine offerings, Drexhage elaborates, "I'm still working out the details of the menu — Fanny had an off-site kitchen that allowed them to have rather more offerings than is possible with a few feet of prep space and much less refrigeration and storage, not to mention no real stove," she says. "To begin, we'll have some pastries and toast in the morning, as well as the amazingly delicious doughnuts from Doughnut Dolly. I'm working with Acme to develop a pizza bianca that we can use to make great sandwiches, and we'll have seasonal salads and various crostini (think salt cod brandade and fava beans), salumi and cheeses, and other little bites. The intention is to have the whole menu be available all day."
Many have speculated about whether Waters is involved in this new venture directly in any way, however, according to Drexhage, she's involved at more of a spiritual level than a physical one, "It's true that Alice isn't directly involved in Bartavelle, although she has been and continues to be a big inspiration to me, as have all the great Chez cooks it has been my pleasure to know and work with. We are a tiny place, but will definitely be getting our produce from the farmers we know and buying products from local artisans."
As far as the coffee offerings are concerned, Drexhage reached out to Sightglass, a San Francisco-based roaster that had not previously sold their products in Berkley. Her son, Sam Sobolewski is leaving his post at Joe, the Art of Coffee in New York City to manage the coffee program at Bartavelle.
With regards to the wine selections, they plan to have a rotating menu of six to eight wines at a time, available by the half-glass, glass, or bottle ("priced to make them hard to resist!"). Drexhage says the choices will certainly be inspired by her experience working with Kermit Lynch. "Kermit's wines began influencing my palate long before I came to work for him," she says. "He's imported so many great producers from regions that were under represented. The Corsican wines he's been bringing in the past few years are my current wine obsession, maybe especially the rosés."
Until Bartavelle opens fully this summer, Drexhage has hired Luigi Oldani to sell coffee from his Cro Café on the patio every morning from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. They hope to be serving edible treats in the near future to accompany the coffee.
According to Drexhage, "With a little luck, Bartavelle will be up and running sometime in July. We can't wait."