For many East Bay fans, Sequoia Diner is synonymous with biscuits. Located in Oakland’s Laurel District since 2015, the cult favorite was a collaboration between Sequoia and Andrew Vennari, partners in business and in life. This year, following a separation and a soon-to-be-finalized divorce, Sequoia Del Hoyo, who has celiac, is opening a new cafe that’s much more reflective of her sensibilities and heritage.
For the past year and a half, Del Hoyo, who stepped away from the beloved diner, has been operating a meal delivery service called Tarocco from the Sequoia Diner kitchen. In late February, she’ll open Tarocco as a permanent daytime cafe in West Berkeley, two blocks away from Third Culture Bakery and Standard Fare, in a space that was previously occupied by Westside Bakery and Cafe and a short-lived Nepalese restaurant that opened in the very beginning of 2020.
The cafe will serve lunch and, eventually, breakfast, as well as wine and beer. It wasn’t the original goal, however — in the process of severing ties with Sequoia Diner, Del Hoyo was simply looking for a new commercial kitchen space. “The thing is, you get into the business because you love it, and I genuinely love serving people and creating an atmosphere,” she says. “Once I saw the space, it was so easy to fall in love with — pre-pandemic everyone wanted an intimate, small business, myself included, but having lots of space and a lot of windows is now an asset.”
The Tarocco menu will be inspired by Del Hoyo’s Catalan roots, and will include variety of meze and composed salads with a Californian-Mediterranean flair. They’ll be “plant-forward with a side of protein, like turkey feta meatballs with tzatziki, roasted salmon,” Del Hoyo says, an approach that she’ll carry over from her experience delivering meals. Examples include a tahini Caesar with crispy chickpeas, French lentils with confit leeks and broccolini, and chicories and beets with Castelvetrano olives and dates.
The design, which Del Hoyo had conceptualized herself, will be “a bit more feminine” and reference the vibe of a faraway vacation to, say, Barcelona, where she has family. Having said that, Del Hoyo is aiming for a hyper-local experience, complete with an affordable price point; she wants Tarocco to be “a place you can come to once a week without breaking the bank,” she says. She’s planning to offer counter service, fueled by rosé, Champagne, and kombucha on tap — a.k.a. “all the things I like to drink,” she says.
Very much in line with Del Hoyo’s candid recap of her new journey on social media, Tarocco is truly a one-woman show. “Once I realized I’m sitting in here all by myself, I was literally sobbing,” she says. “This is a massive undertaking, but all of the weird skills I picked up in my life have led up to this moment.”
Tarocco will open in late February at 2570 Ninth Street in Berkeley.
Update: January 21st, 2022, 9:35 a.m.: This story has been updated with Andrew Vennari’s name.