Oakland’s Lake Merritt neighborhood is a quiet stretch of restaurants and shops, from Grand Lake Kitchen to the small wine shop Bay Grape, a family-owned operation that strives to provide education and community to its neighbors. Now husband-and-wife team Stevie Stacionis and Josiah Baldivino are making their first foray into the business of owning a restaurant, with the July 1 opening of Mama.
The restaurant, previously Contrasto and 388 Kitchen before that, is just a few doors down from Bay Grape on Grand Avenue. Its new life will be as a restaurant serving a set fixed menu seven days per week at the low, low price of $29.95.
“We want people to be able to come here anytime, not just on a special occasion,” says Stacionis. “We want them to be able to come back again and again.”
Leading the kitchen is Dorian Jones, a chef with experience at restaurants like Republic, Black Salt, and Graffiato in Washington, DC. In Oakland, she’s been working at Bay Grape, bolstering her wine and front-of-house experience. Eventually, she’ll leave to open something of her own, says Stacionis, which is the point; she and Baldivino already invest in their employees at Bay Grape through a job development program they’ve developed in house.
“We were really looking for somebody that is interested in mentorship and interested in working with us to create a thorough job development training program,” says Stacionis. “To bring inexperienced back- and front-of-house people up the ladder.”
The menu will change constantly based on what ingredients are around, and based on the restaurant’s zero-waste ethos. It will include a choice of first course (which could be zuppa verde or a salad for example), a second course that will always be pasta (one of which will always be a sugo), and a third dessert course of gelato with biscotti or some type of rustic Italian option like crostata with lemon curd; Mama’s meatballs will always be available for an extra $10. Gluten-free and vegan options will be widely accommodated, too.
The wine list from Baldivino (a sommelier with years of experience at some of SF’s highest end restaurants, including Michael Mina) will be equally accessible, with glasses starting at $8. Bottles will average $40-80, with the addition of a “baller list” for those who wish to translate food savings directly into wine splurges.
Stacionis and Baldivino have worked to build an inclusive community since they opened Bay Grape in 2014, offering wine education for professionals and amateurs, hosting tastings with winemakers both up-and-coming and highly acclaimed, and drawing in locals with a vibe built on their own personalities (see photo above). With the opening of Mama, whose concept is based on the warm, Italian hospitality of Stacionis’ own grandmother, they’re bringing it full circle.
When Mama opens on July 1, it will be open seven days a week for dinner from 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; walk-ins only. [Note: It will close on July 3-4 for the Independence Day holiday, reopening on July 5]
- Mama Oakland [Official]
- Owners of Popular Oakland Wine Shop to Open a Cozy, Red Sauce Italian Restaurant [ESF]
- East Bay Essential 38 [ESF]