New Taker for Berkeley's Café Rouge Space: Pompette

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A “work in progress” menu for Pompette. Instagram photo via @hotcakesdesign.

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The bar at Café Rouge. Photo courtesy of Café Rouge.

The sadness over the closure of Marsha McBride’s beloved ~CAFÉ ROUGE~ after 20 years on Fourth Street in Berkeley can be a bit softened with the exciting news of what is taking its place, ~POMPETTE~. Chef David Visick, an alum of Chez Panisse and SF’s Cafe Kati (yup, we’re talking back in the DAY), is taking over the space with his wife, Caramia Visick, who worked at Bay Wolf (as well as Oliveto, Zuni, and Stars) before launching her jewelry line (Hotcakes Design) and shop (Favor) when their son was born—she will be running front of house.

Pompette strives to pick up the mantle of Café Rouge’s welcoming living room-meets-dining room reputation on Fourth Street, an easy place to swing by for a quick lunch or satisfying dinner (open daily), or an afternoon cocktail and a bite. They know how important the bar was to the neighborhood and want to preserve its role (there will also be some affordable wines too). And it ties in well with its name, which means “a little tipsy.”

Visick has been cooking at private events of late (oh, you know, for the Obamas and Clintons), and his style is very ingredient-driven, with impeccable sourcing, through the filters of French, Italian, and Spanish cuisines. The menu will feature bar snacks, medium-sized appetizers that you can easily make a meal of, with many vegetable-based dishes, like grilled artichokes with dukkah, saffron, and yogurt, plus a few bigger plates. Visick mentioned there will be a rotisserie, with nightly rotating meats. One example is rotisserie chicken coming off the spit every 30 minutes, served with a chicory salad, potatoes in the drippings, and salsa verde, enough for 2 or 3 people to make a meal of it. He’s having fun looking at some classics, like lamb Sainte-Ménehould vis-à-vis Elizabeth David, a dish of lamb belly (or breast) that is braised, then chilled, pressed, sliced into strips, coated in bread crumbs, sautéed, and served with sauce gribiche. Sign me up.

The room is getting a gentle update, with new paint, lighting, tables, and chairs, and the butcher shop has been converted into a counter for the rotisserie and more, plus some banquette seating has been added, making a little hideaway nook. There will be 110 seats all told, including the outside.

They hope to open at the end of March. I’ll keep you posted on the menu, to be released soon, and the opening date. 1782 4th St. at Delaware, Berkeley.