Almost every morning, Pizzaiolo (5008 Telegraph Ave., Oakland) opens its doors early, not to sell pizzas or gin-and-tonics or frilly frisée salads, but instead to sling doughnuts, espresso drinks, and — most precious of all — the sweet, sweet nectar of a free wi-fi connection. The Temescal institution is one of a growing number of restaurants that are taking advantage of the morning hours, when their dining rooms would normally sit empty, to dabble in the coffee-shop business.
For the restaurants, it’s a win-win: The cooks are in the kitchen all morning anyway, prepping vegetables or tending to big pots of stock. Why not whip up some pastries, add an extra revenue stream, and generate a bit of goodwill in the community while you’re at it?
The granddaddy of the trend, or at least the most well known exemplar here in the East Bay, is the aforementioned Pizzaiolo, which has been hosting its coffee-and-doughnut mornings since 2007. It has been called the best-kept secret in Oakland, but if my experiences are any indication, it might as well be the worst kept — the place is always packed, with writers and work-from-home types, and even snagging a seat at the bar can be a challenging task.
In an effort to expand my wi-fi-leeching horizons, I checked out two new, equally worthy morning coffee-and-pastry programs — plus another that will launch in the coming month. Here’s the lowdown:
4029 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-420-6962
Morning hours: Tue.-Sat. 8 a.m.-noon
Foodstuffs spotted: Assorted doughnuts, savory strata, quiche, and more
Coffee situation: Contraband drip coffee and espresso drinks
6211 Shattuck Ave., Oakland, 510-658-3903
“Morning” hours: Mon.-Fri. 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. or sold out, Sat. 8 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. or sold out
Foodstuffs spotted: Sweet and savory croissants, scones, house-baked sourdough bread
Coffee situation: McLaughlin’s Organic Sumatra (self-serve)
4395 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-601-0305
Morning hours: TBA, but probably Mon.-Sat. 8-11:30 a.m., starting in late January or early February
Foodstuffs planned: Sicilian-style cornetti, fresh ricotta, jams, salumi, bread
Coffee situation: TBA
According to Adesso owner Jon Smulewitz, in Italy, the bar where you downed your last drink at night is often the same place you get your coffee in the morning. So, since the restaurant’s primary identity is as a salumi and cocktail bar, it makes sense that Smulewitz plans to start doing coffee service in the mornings. Food-wise, the focus will be on traditional Italian treats: Sicilian-style cornetti (Italy’s version of a croissant), fresh house-made ricotta, and, of course, a selection of salumi. Smulewitz said he expects to kick things off at the end of January or the beginning of February. The setup should offer something for everyone: morning commuters looking to pick up a grab-and-go pastry, laptop users, or people who want to catch the big soccer match on TV.