Agrodolce, a new Sicilian-style restaurant, is under construction and expected to open in early September at the former location of Cafe Gratitude at 1730 Shattuck Ave., in Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto.
The owners of the new restaurant, the D’Alo family, currently run another Berkeley eatery — the Italian restaurant Trattoria La Siciliana on College Avenue — which has been in operation for about 20 years. According to one of the owners, Angelo D’Alo, Agrodolce will focus on the family’s Sicilian background and will serve strictly classic Sicilian food, as opposed to the other restaurant’s fusion of Sicilian and Italian cuisine.
“No one has ever done this in the area before,” D’Alo said, referring to the unique specialization planned for the new restaurant. “It’s time to do something new.”
D’Alo noted that because his family already had established its business presence in Berkeley, expanding to the northern part of the city seemed to be the next logical step.
Before Agrodolce, the building was occupied by another restaurant chain called Cafe Gratitude. That cafe, which closed at the end of last year, featured an all-vegan menu.
Despite the change in cuisine to be offered at Agrodolce, D’Alo said vegan food options will be available at the new restaurant. He added that Sicilian foods are mostly plant-based because of the traditionally higher cost of meat and dairy products.
“We are not abandoning (the) vegan lifestyle,” D’Alo said, “and we are definitely not abandoning Cafe Gratitude people.”
Although similar to Italian food, Sicilian cuisine is also influenced by several foreign cultures such as Spanish, D’Alo said. He added that these influences were perhaps fostered because of the nature of Sicily as an island.
“Our history involves invasion of our culture,” D’alo said. “We integrated that culture into our cuisine.”
Emiliano Cecchetti — the owner of Caravaggio Gelateria Italiana, a nearby gelato business — said he was excited for the opening of the new restaurant, in particular because it shared a common cultural background with his gelateria.
Local residents also expressed interest in the new restaurant. Carmel Malvar, a junior at UC Berkeley, was largely enthusiastic about its upcoming opening.
“It will be a good addition to the restaurant scene here,” she said, adding that she would evaluate her interest in going there depending on the prices.
D’Alo explained that the red-brick design of the restaurant’s location closely resembles the atmosphere in Sicily.
“(The building) exemplifies the Sicilian rustic character,” D’Alo said.
The new restaurant will include a full bar once it is approved, though it will initially serve beer and wine. D’Alo said he hopes Agrodolce will open Sept. 1.