Berkeley, CA

Italian sound good? Check out Donato & Co.

Clay Kallam

There’s a Vespa between the bar and the dining room.

The high, wooden ceilings perfectly complement the large black-and-white photos of Italian villages on the walls.

The space is comfortable, the vibe very Berkeley – of course, Donato & Co. is just west of the College-Ashby intersection, which is about as Berkeley as you can get.

And the food is really good. Not knock-your-fork-out-of-your-hand great, but really good, and given today’s prices, a solid value. They tout the sidecar on the cocktail menu, and they’re right to do so, and the drinks and wine work well for us, though we are far from connoisseurs.

Does that seem like damning with faint praise? It’s not. You go to Donato & Co. to have a nice Italian meal with a cocktail and a glass of wine, and walk out the door thinking “We’ll be back.”

OK, it’s not Commis, with the Michelin stars. It’s not a fancy San Francisco place with reservations already booked until December. But if you’re looking for a place to go this weekend, get a reservation.

Note that pretty much everything is made in house, from the pasta to the desserts, and the small pizzas we had an appetizer were fresh out of the oven. The dough was perfect, the toppings tasty, and neither overpowered the other.

I had paccheri, with loads of fish and a tomato sauce that thankfully wasn’t too tomatoey. Maggi went with the tortelloni, stuffed with eggplant and cheese, and we both were happy. (And a tip for carbonara lovers: It’s not on the menu, but is always available.)

We opted to keep it simple with dessert, getting the gelato sampler, but that too was more than just another menu item. The four scoops were wrapped in what was described as a crunchy basket made of maple syrup, but it wasn’t as sweet as we feared, and was definitely crunchy.

The only thing that we didn’t devour completely was the broccolini, which was a little too salty, but that’s a pretty minor nitpick from a couple that spends way too much money on restaurants.

So yes, we’ll definitely be back after yet another fun night at Donato & Co. And maybe you’ll be there too.
Donato & Co.'s paccheri.Photo byClay Kallam

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Clay Kallam is a lifelong East Bay resident who spent several decades in local journalism -- and still writes for Diablo Magazine (among others). Over the years, he has covered just about every aspect of life in the Bay Area, from rock-and-roll to the arts to political coverage to food to sports. On the food front, he does not claim to be a critic, but rather someone who enjoys a good meal, a well-made drink and a nice red wine. As for sports, he has written for national publications (including Sports Illustrated and Slam) and covers girls' basketball across the nation for MaxPreps. He is a high school coach and a serious fan of the local teams -- and savored every minute of the Giants' and Warriors' championships. He graduated from Acalanes, UC Santa Barbara (ancient history) and Cal (philosophy). He lives in Walnut Creek with his wife Maggi, who takes many of the food photos. He appreciates his readers and is always happy to talk about anything he's written. His food experiences can be found at #dishdining on Instagram, and emails can be sent to

Walnut Creek, CA

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