It’s no wonder Southern Europe is so famous for its sidewalk cafes and alfresco feasts. Their summers have always been warm, but things have gotten so toasty over there, Italian meteorologists have started naming heat waves after characters from the Underworld.
It hasn’t reached Cerberus levels of heat here in the Bay Area yet (knock wood), but it definitely teeters between very warm and wow. So we’re following that great alfresco tradition and heading for nine new rooftop bars, dining terraces and outdoor cafes. You, too, can eat, sip and make merry under market umbrellas, twinkle lights and shade trees at hot spots that range from Elia in Walnut Creek and Pleasanton to the President’s Terrace in Palo Alto and beyond.
President’s Terrace, Palo Alto
Palo Alto acquired its first rooftop bar in February as the crowning touch on a historic renovation of the former Hotel President. The six-story hotel is now The Graduate Palo Alto, with a bar that offers panoramic views of the Mid-peninsula landscape, from the Stanford Dish to the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The terrace: The President’s Terrace supplements those 360-degree views with seasonal bites and cocktails in a setting that offers just enough protection from the wind. Cozy seating setups make this the perfect spot to gather for drinks with friends or enjoy happy hour with coworkers. Come early to snag the alcove next to the rooftop fireplace for extra ambience.
The menu: The cocktail menu was designed by Los Angeles-based bar consultant Bad Birdy and offers creative drinks with names such as the Silicon Sipper ($18), featuring armagnac, Cointreau Noir, lemon and orange oils, and the tequila-based Weekend at Burning Man ($18), with Ancho Reyes Verde, lemon, pineapple, elote syrup and ancho chile bitters. And the accompanying bites, categorized by “sea” or “land,” include Oysters ($20 for 6), seared ahi ($24), prime beef tartare ($22) and bread with whipped bone marrow “butter” ($14).
Don’t miss: The Peninsula ($17) cocktail — a mix of mezcal, lime, pink guava and gardenia essence and topped with an edible flower — offers a refreshing blend of fruity and floral flavors that is superbly sippable.
Details: The President’s Terrace opens at 4 p.m. daily atop the Graduate Hotel at 488 University Ave. in Palo Alto; graduatehotels.com/palo-alto
5 Tacos & Beers, Walnut Creek
During the height of summer, exploring downtown Walnut Creek can feel a bit like traversing the Gran Desierto de Altar. But the sidewalk patio at Lito Saldana’s 5 Tacos & Beers is stocked with all the umbrellas and intoxicating liquids you need to slip into a cool, contented torpor.
The newest outpost of this small Bay Area chain — 5 Tacos and Beers’ sister restaurants are in Albany and Berkeley — opened in April, offering a spacious, colorfully decorated interior and a bar with 30 draft beers and walls of fascinating liquors.
The terrace: In warm weather, this place is all about the outdoor patio, which fills up quickly with happy-hour crowds and workers fleeing the office. Snatch a table by the planters of succulents and enjoy the buzzing crowd, perhaps with a Cadillac margarita in hand or a savory michelitro — a michelada liter — in flavors like tamarind and spicy cucumber.
The menu: Despite its name, 5 Tacos & Beers actually does at least seven styles of tacos, including a vegan chorizo number and a decadent quesabirria. You can try a flight of five ($28) that includes chile verde with pork shoulder and crispy carnitas with jalapeño curtido, which pair well with sides of refried beans and cilantro rice. (It’s nice to know the restaurant’s preferred butcher is Santa Rosa’s award-winning Sonoma County Meat Co.) There’s also street corn slathered in sour cream and cotija ($12), chicken flautas with guacamole ($16) and a fiery shrimp ceviche with avocado, Fresno chiles and blended serranos ($16).
Don’t miss: Pair that taco flight with a tipple from the restaurant’s extensive tequila and mezcal list or choose a flight of five local brews ($20) like Old Caz’s Chismosa and Far West’s guava cider. And if you have a sweet tooth, churros and vanilla flan with fresh strawberries await.
Details: Opens at 11 a.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. weekends at 1352 Locust St. in Walnut Creek, with sister restaurants in Albany and Berkeley; 5tacos.com.
Giorgio’s, Morgan Hill
Until this expansion in 2022, the D’Ambrosio family hadn’t opened a new restaurant in 25 years — not since adding a location at the Milpitas Town Center back in 1997. But the growth of Morgan Hill and the number of their customers moving to South County prompted them to think about planting a red, white and green flag on restaurant-rich Monterey Road.
Good thing they went big. This 200-seat Giorgio’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria has enjoyed a tremendous response. And third-generation owner Mike D’Ambrosio said the contemporary look created by designer Sue McDonnell of McDonnell & Associates — with high-top tables, cool lighting and bar seating, a neon-enhanced takeout counter — has inspired them to refresh their San Jose/Foxworthy and Milpitas restaurants in the coming months.
The terrace: Custom-made iron scrollwork evokes Italy and the Morgan Hill hillside. The spacious, 87-seat patio, designed for year-round use, offers fresh air along with protection from the elements. The awning-covered space features misters for summer and overhead heat lamps for chilly times.
The menu: Hearty servings of Italian-American favorites are the rule here. Meals start with warm sourdough rolls and whipped garlic butter, and many entrees are accompanied by spaghetti and vegetables. Among the customer favorites are Eggplant Parmigiana ($19.50), Penne Calabrese with sausage and mushrooms ($21), Chicken Marsala ($23.50) and Linguini Cacciucco ($32), packed with fresh clams, prawns, calamari and white fish.
Rounding out the menu are pizzas (the cleverly named Frank’s Fiasco piles on salami, pepperoni, sausage, linguica, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers), salads, sandwiches and specialty entrees like the Veal Porterhouse with sides ($32.50).
Don’t miss: The D’Ambrosios own the largest sausage maker on the West Coast — the 70-year-old New York Style Sausage Co. of Sunnyvale — so make sure to start with the Sausage Bread ($11.95). The slices are served with a cup of marinara sauce for dipping.
Details: Open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. 17390 Monterey Road, Morgan Hill; www.giorgiositalianfood.com
Elia, Pleasanton and Walnut Creek
Walk through an archway of fuchsia bougainvillea, and you’ll feel like you just wandered into a cafe on a Greek isle. Elia offers elevated indoor and outdoor seating on Pleasanton’s Main Street with a menu varied enough — from salads to lamb chops and seafood bucatini — to please everyone.
The terrace: Abundant umbrellas and crisp white tablecloths provide a lovely respite from Pleasanton’s toasty summer heat. Staying cool becomes even easier when you’re sipping a Greek frappe ($6).
The menu: The Greek-inspired menu offers 16 variations on the mezze theme, including keftedes, dolmathes, prawns and crispy zucchini cakes. There are soups and salads — the Roka Salad ($14), for example, dresses arugula, beets, tomatoes and cucumber with lemon oil — as well as heartier entrees such as sea bass, seafood paella, souvlaki and moussaka in both meaty and vegetarian iterations.
Don’t miss: Be sure to try a meze — perhaps the Muhammara ($12), a creamy, garlicky roasted bell pepper spread served with feta and pomegranate molasses — with Elia’s irresistible fuffy pita bread.
Details: Open for lunch and dinner daily, with weekend brunch hours, too, at 310A Main St. in Pleasanton and 1520 Locust St. in Walnut Creek; eliarestaurants.com.
Darla Cafe, Saratoga
A new restaurant, new chefs and an intriguing fusion menu provide plenty of reason to visit — or revisit — the patio at 14572 Big Basin Way in the historic Saratoga village.
The idea for Darla Cafe came about when three friends, longtime restaurant industry staffers, decided to chase their dreams instead of working for someone else, says co-owner Nina Summers, who manages the front of the house as well as social media.
The name gives a nod to the adorable old Hollywood character from “The Little Rascals,” plus a little Thai wordplay. “Dara” means star, hence Darla is the “cafe of stars” or a dearly beloved cafe, she says.
The terrace: What’s old is new again — a 200-year-old oak tree stands sentry on the patio, surrounded by seating for 24 diners. Gaze skyward at that gorgeous canopy of branches and bliss out.
The menu: Chefs and co-owners Mookie Varunthorn and Noni Papatsara launched with breakfast and lunch in March and have since added evening hours. The brunch menu highlights Benedicts served on rustic millstone bread and topped with yuzu or chipotle hollandaise. The Darla Benedict ($22) subs candied bacon for that old standard, Canadian bacon, while the Softie Benedict ($32) features a fried soft-shell crab.
You’ll also find brunch specials of Jok Koang ($26), Shakshuka ($20) and Loco Moco #1 with Snake River Farms wagyu ($32). On the afternoon/evening menu, check out fusion specials that range from an Indian-spiced Spaghetti Napoletana ($22) to Duck Confit in Thai Red Curry ($38).
Don’t miss: Diners rave about the karaage, shatteringly crisp Japanese fried chicken that shows up in many dishes, including the Karaage & Waffle ($24) and the Chicken Salad and Karaage Benedict ($22 each).
Babette has a new address, but walking in, it feels like an old friend’s garden party. The former cafe for the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive has settled comfortably into its expanded digs on San Pablo Avenue. Joan Ellis and Patrick Hooker, the husband and wife who run the place, have a knack for transforming the day’s market offerings into tasty, plant-forward dishes.
The terrace: A charming garden setting out back welcomes diners with cafe lights, a cloud-kissing redwood tree and wine barrels of strawberries and herbs that are plucked to complement your meals. Those meals feature light but flavorful fare, best enjoyed on the sun-streaked deck with random butterfly and bird friends. It’s a weekend-brunch hotspot, too, where Champagne glasses clink in synchrony with live jazz.
The menu: A gazpacho of creamy avocado, peas and coconut milk is a refreshing way to start ($6), followed by flatbread with burrata and peak-season nectarine salad ($20). Squid stuffed with ground pork and pistachios pop when swabbed in preserved-lemon aioli ($12), and then there are margherita and even a masala pizza with goat cheese and spicy makhani sauce ($22-$28). Schnitzel fans detouring into vegetarian country will enjoy the crispy Middle Eastern-spiced portobello served with a snowfall of bulgur, olives and mint-yogurt sauce ($28).
Don’t miss: Simply, the desserts. The tiramisu ($12) is a lighter version made with rose mascarpone and chai masala. Bruleed semifreddo cheesecake ($12) is served with a garnet fruit sauce and cherries. Definitely worth a try: Cardamaro, a wine-based digestif made from the edible thistle, cardoon.
Details: Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday-Sunday and 5 to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday at 2033 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley; babettecafe.com
Ristorante Carpaccio, Menlo Park
Ristorante Carpaccio is a longtime staple of the Menlo Park dining scene, but hasn’t offered outdoor dining until relatively recently. While the interior was laid out by restaurant designer Pat Kuleto, it was the pandemic that added an alfresco option — the owners converted a city alleyway into a cozy planter-lined space.
The terrace: While this dining area remains a converted alley, it’s shady and carefully decorated, and its separation from the main drag of Santa Cruz Avenue makes it easy to imagine you’re eating outside on the streets of Italy instead of in the Silicon Valley suburbs.
The menu: The menu has traditional Italian fare, from its eponymous carpaccio to housemade gnocchi and cheese-stuffed ravioli in a walnut cream sauce. It’s also got an extensive selection of wood-fired thin-crust pizzas ($20-25), and a lengthy drink menu with everything from wines to bourbons and tequilas — and brews from Livermore’s Shadow Puppet Brewery.
Don’t miss: The bombetta di Parmigiano ($16), a Parmesan soufflé served atop a bed of arugula and baby spinach with a roasted garlic honey mustard vinaigrette is rich and satisfying.
Details: Open from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday- Saturday at 1120 Crane St. in Menlo Park; carpaccios.com.
Sons of Liberty Alehouse, Livermore
This upscale beer hall, cocktail bar and restaurant first opened in San Leandro in 2017, before expanding to Livermore last fall. The new digs offer indoor and outdoor dining, with a seasonal menu that spans the gastronomic needs of East Bay foodies. Think deviled eggs ($14) and poutine ($13.50) — and duck confit tacos and Di Stefano burrata with tomato confit and duck confit tacos.
The terrace: Green shade umbrellas, string lights and a prominent downtown spot make the dining at the Sons of Liberty Alehouse an inviting destination for alfresco dining – and sipping.
The menu: This spot offers American-style fare with farm-to-table flair. The smoked brisket ($33) is sourced from Brandt Farm and paired with housemade barbecue sauce, a jalapeño mash, bacon smoked baked beans and cornbread ($33). Brandt also supplies the beef for the Liberty Burger ($21.50), served with hand-cut fries. And for lighter appetites, a watermelon arugula salad ($16) with feta, marinated cucumber and toasted pistachios, topped with a balsamic glaze and citrus mint vinaigrette.
Don’t miss: The Cali Summer cocktail ($15) is made with Del Maguey Vida mezcal, Lillet Rouge, a house strawberry syrup, lemon juice, basil and Angostura bitters. Try it with the seasonal grilled stonefruit ($15) accompanied by housemade ricotta, honey, basil and a prosciutto option. Don’t skip the fun quotes sprinkled throughout the enormous drink menu, such as “Sometimes you run into people who totally change your life for the better. These people are called bartenders.” Or this one, attributed simply to “Vodka”: “Trust me, you can dance.”
Details: Open noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at 2327 First St. in Livermore; sonsoflibertyalehouse.com.
Sailing Goat, Richmond
It must be hard to be the restaurant that replaced Black Star Pirate BBQ, the quirky joint at the tip of Point San Pablo beloved by foodies and Burning Man devotees alike. But Sailing Goat, which opened this spring, has preserved both the unpolished, outdoor beauty and smoke-tinged flavors of its buccaneering predecessor and done it well.
In fact, chef Ross Kaplan sounds eccentric enough to fit right in with the Black Star people. He once took a camping trip across the country, cooking only with a cast-iron pan over fire. Here, you’ll find his cooking station in a field, where pizzas char nicely in a wood-burning oven and African-style potjie pots bubble over an open flame.
The terrace: There is no indoor seating at Sailing Goat – everything happens on a covered patio dotted with picnic tables offering views of the placid water, colorful houseboats and sunbathing sea lions. On many days, there’s live music — and for kiddos, a rocky beach to dip the toes.
The menu: Kaplan curates a tour of the world’s coastal communities with shrimp fritters with lemon aioli ($13), a Portuguese casserole with salt cod, potatoes and cream ($15) and crispy fish and chips with tartar sauce ($26). Also on the menu: wood-fired pizzas ($19-$25), a breaded pork loin sandwich ($16) and Korean braised chicken ($23). A wide range of California wines are available by the glass or bottle, and local beer lovers will offerings from stars like Almanac and East Brother.
Don’t miss: Kaplan’s love for seafood (he grew up near the Chesapeake Bay) comes out in the Brazilian moqueca seafood stew, a smoke-scented melange of local fish, shrimp and clams in a bracing habanero-coconut milk broth. It’s served in an iron potjie pot, as is a Moroccan-inspired stew of spring vegetables, currants and saffron ($22).
Details: Open from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday at 1900 Stenmark Drive, Richmond; sailinggoatrestaurant.com.