Cravings



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Transported by Taste

    “You must go and try the fried olives at Pappo’s,” epicurean Alameda cooking teacher Weezie Mott insisted. Fried olives. The mention brings a scene to mind. It’s January 2006, inside a difficult-to-find flamenco club located at the back of a taverna in a quiet alleyway in Madrid. The audience sits spellbound as the lead male singer wails in tones of struggle and desperation. Guitars and piano echo his melancholic tone. The passion and sensuality is palpable as two dancers, a man and a woman locked in angst-filled conflict, rhythmically pound the small stage. When they finish, the mainly Spanish crowd roars approval. Waiting for what will come next, I order a second glass of white wine and linger over my plate of anchovy-stuffed olives.
    This being said, it came as no surprise to discover the olives Mott recommended ($5.50, on the dinner menu) were Spanish, anchovy-stuffed and inspired by similar tidbits Pappo’s chef-owner, John Thiel, nibbled on while exploring Spain, Italy and other parts of Europe. “From when I was a kid, I knew I wanted my own restaurant,” the former Bay Wolf chef says. “When something made an impression on my palate, I’d say, ‘I’m going to put this on my menu’ and make a mental note.” Thiel rolls his green Manzanilla olives in a light coating of panko, then drops them briefly into hot canola oil—just long enough to turn them golden brown and give them their light crunch. With their hint of fishiness, natural brininess and rich creaminess, they’re delicious enough to get one stomping, clapping and strumming for more.
    Pappo, 2320 Central Ave., open for dinner 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m. Wed., Thu., Sun., 5:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; lunch 11:30 a.m.–2.30 p.m. Wed.–Fri. (510) 337-9100, www.papporestaurant.com.

—By Wanda Hennig
—Photography by Paul Skrentny

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