Chris Pastena started with Chop Bar near Jack London Square. Earlier this year, he opened Lungomare in the former Miss Pearl’s space in Oakland. Next on tap is Tribune Tavern in April. The question is – when will the restaurants end?
“Honestly, I’ve been very fortunate to work with such a great group of people. The team at Chop Bar has been so helpful in letting me work on these projects,” Pastena said. “Lev (Delaney), my partner at Chop Bar, is handling a bigger load there. But this is something I have a true passion for.”
Pastena, an Oakland resident, said many people questioned them when they were opening Chop Bar, whether it was the “highly industrial” location or opening in Oakland to begin with. Now, highly successful for 3+ years, often doing more than 300 covers a day, the doubters have left the building. “Our concept was not really new. But our philosophy is what has helped us succeed. We treat our entire staff like family, where everyone has a say and an understanding of what we are trying to do. I think that really shows in the service we provide and our food,” he said. “While each of the new restaurants may serve a different type of cuisine, I am always going to take that same philosophy with me.”
Like so many other chefs and owners that live in Oakland, there is a real sense of pride in the city with Pastena, a passion for what Oakland represents and brings to the table. “Oakland really has that small town feel with so much city pride among residents. Living nearby Jack London Square myself, I believe in Oakland, believe in Jack London Square and believe things are headed in the right direction,” Pastena said. “I think people in this city really embrace the wonderful diversity Oakland has to offer. People are excited about what’s going on in the city and it really feels alive.”
Unlike Chop Bar, Lungomare, is a blend of Tuscan and Ligurian specialties. Pastena, who has a background in Italian cuisine, describes the menu as casual, but refined. Dishes like the house cured meats, Ligurian Fish Stew and Squid Ink Chitarra highlight fresh, seasonal and local ingredients mixed with a sense of Italy. There is also a cafe serving up fresh coffee and homemade pastries in the mornings, a large lounge area for those wanting to stop by after work for a small bite and cocktail and numerous tables taking advantage of the outdoor patio area, all with a waterfront view. The wine program features stylistic wines of the region and cocktails tend to lean toward classic European.
Previous Coverage: Revitalization of Jack London Square
Pastena’s business partner and investor Tom Henderson wants Lungomare to just be the start of revitalizing Oakland, one restaurant at a time. A longtime Oakland resident himself, Henderson is president of San Francisco Regional Center LLC, which works with prospective immigrants to finance local projects that will create jobs, on the condition that they obtain an EB-5 visa. Henderson hopes to eventually create thousands of jobs. “I’ve talked to Tom and he said he wants to do 15-20 restaurants in Oakland. I said I was willing and ready,” Pastena said. “There’s always a concern about overextending yourself. But I think the key is to have a general philosophy and never waver from it. I told Tom if that ever changes at any of our restaurants, I’ll stop.”
Pastena is especially excited about exploring the mid-Broadway area of Oakland, a strip that connects Uptown with Old Oakland and back down to Jack London Square.
Oakland has been a hub of restaurant activity early in 2013, thanks in part to Pastena and his team, helping to build up the city one business at a time.