785 Oak Grove Road, Suite 4, Concord | 925.969.9828 | website
A while ago I read on Diablo Dish that one of the owners of 54 Mint wine bar in San Francisco was opening a location on the Walnut Creek/Concord border. Aha! I exclaimed, a new lunch prospect close to my office! My lunchtime foraging is definitely improved since the Office moved to Walnut Creek, and I am always on the lookout for anything good that doesn’t belong to a large chain. This east bay branch is in the Oak Grove Plaza at the corner of Treat Boulevard and Oak Grove Road in a strip mall but since we are way out in the suburbs, the parking is bounteous. The sign on the sidewalk proclaiming it to be Porchetta Day caught my attention. Porchetta! Be still my heart… and I recalled the mouthwatering experience at RoliRoti last year…
Inside is bright and beautiful with sleek white tiles on the walls, stainless steel accents and dark wood tables. At lunchtime, follow your nose and head towards the counter at the back of the dining room where the delicious aromas rise from gorgeous mounds of saucy handmade pasta, sausages, meatballs, salads and meat from the rotisserie. The menu features authentic regional Italian fare that encourages you to order to-go at lunchtime, with $2 discounts on the entrees… but I had such a lovely time eating in that I am willing to pay the premiums to stay and enjoy the delicious food while it’s hot.
I was lucky to be there early and the charismatic owner Claudio Ricciolini himself was behind the counter selling his wares. Here he is offering me a plump piece of the savory and rich porchetta.
This porchetta is made from pork belly that has been rolled up with rosemary, sea salt, white fennel, and garlic and then slow roasted until it develops a lovely crisp skin that shatters into shards of crunchy rich porcine delight.
The Porchetta Sandwich ($7) is a decadent composition of meaty chunks of pork belly and bits of that addictively crunchy skin, crisp greens and chewy crusty sourdough bread. It was a bit unruly with the thick slices of bread and since the meat was not heated, some of those pockets and veins of fat were a bit congealed for my taste. I can’t help but compare it to the roliroti version, where they removed the extraneous bread from the middle of the roll and the pockets of porchetta fat were still warm and like butter… it also needed something zesty, like the onion marmalade or even some spicy mustard. But I’m really not complaining, this is entire galaxies beyond Panera or Togo’s Sandwiches! I must have been very obvious in my enjoyment, as a woman who came by and stood looking at the menu asked me if it was very delicious? Yes, I nodded my head vigorously with my mouth full .
Half order of the Caprese Salad ($5), slices of tomato and mozzarella cheese from Italy drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious, the mozzarella melted like butter.
It was a beautiful sunny day so I elected to sit outside. Here is my elegant tableau… and I must say that I felt very pampered with my own basket of bread, olive oil and decanter of chilled water. A young man brought my dishes and kept checking to see to my needs. Ah, it’s a wonderful respite, this getting away for a break from work. For a brief time, I’m living large and life is just good.
I can’t wait to go back for a plate of the Pork Sausage and Canellini Bean, and for dinner soon too, if I can figure out the menu (which looks like it is written in Italian)!