Oakland chef Charlie Hallowell and new managing partner Donna Insalaco are opening the doors to a new Berkeley pizza and pasta restaurant, Western Pacific, at 2286 Shattuck Avenue this week. The restaurant arrives less than a year after Hallowell stepped away from his businesses — Pizzaiolo, Boot & Shoe Service, and Penrose — when the San Francisco Chronicle confronted him with accusations of sexual harassment by 17 employees.
That number has since grown, and Hallowell has issued apologies for his words and actions — including an open letter to the Oakland community sent earlier this month that hinted at the new restaurant. In fact, the business has been in the works since January 2017; the location was formerly Build Pizza.
“Some people might be wondering why we are choosing to open a new restaurant now?” Hallowell wrote. “We have a very real fiduciary responsibility to our employees and our investors.”
Hallowell’s note to customers also explained Donna Insalaco’s role as the restaurant’s chief operating officer. “She has the power to remove me, define my pay, and to be the last word for everything that happens in our business.” Previous business partner and investor Richard Weinstein, who was also accused of harassing employees according to the Chronicle, is “no longer involved on any level” at the businesses.
Less helpfully, Hallowell’s apology suggested he set up a public dunk tank for himself as a form of atonement. In a follow-up, the chef apologized for that aspect of his original apology.
“The dunk tank comment was clearly a mistake,” he wrote. “It was not meant to make light of the situation.”
Over the last few months, Hallowell has sold two of his three restaurants to new owners: Boot & Shoe Service and Penrose, which are now independently operated. His new restaurant, Western Pacific, was originally billed as a second location of Boot & Shoe Service, but the new name was adopted to differentiate it from the original and its new owners.
Western Pacific promises wood-fired pizza, pasta, salads, and oysters. According to an online blurb, it will adopt “the ethos of southern Italy [and] Cal-Italian Soul Food... with home hints of North Africa and gentle whispers of the American South.” An official opening date is November 1, but reservations are already available on Resy. Seating is for 100, and Wiley Price designed the space.
The new Berkeley restaurant was one of two projects Hallowell announced before public accusations were made against him. The other, an all-day cafe and bakery idea for the former Grand Fare space, isn’t moving forward, the restaurant group confirms.