Chris Pastena (Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern) has been hard at work on his latest project, a Mexican restaurant in uptown Oakland's forthcoming complex The Hive, which will also house a Drake's-owned beer garden. The restaurant has received a moniker: Calavera, which is Spanish for "skull." With a focus on authentic, ingredient-driven fare, including housemade corn and flour tortillas, it's intended to give the neighborhood a more upscale alternative to taquerias. And Pastena is upping the ante with the intention of having the largest tequila and mezcal selection in the East Bay, with 150+ bottles overseen by new hire Joe Cleveland, previously responsible for the acclaimed bar program at Coqueta. Cleveland will also curate an agave-heavy cocktail menu when Calavera opens in early 2015.
To gear up for Calavera's arrival, Pastena has partnered with a new team of service pros to spiff up the experience at his Jack London Square Italian restaurant, Lungomare. Like Cleveland, they are both Coqueta alumni: Michael Iglesias, who's worked with José Andres, is now the GM (and will be Calavera's GM when it opens), while Jessica Sackler is the new assistant GM. Iglesias is completely revamping Lungomare's wine program and taking its cocktails in a more Italian-focused direction, and chef Craig DiFonzo has added some new menu items as well. When Calavera opens, Iglesias and Sackler will be partners in the new venture.