Behind Bay Grape and MAMA Oakland

I am excited to write about a duo of Oakland businesses that I was introduced to this year.  One is a wine shop that has been around for over five years and one is a restaurant that opened up earlier this year.  Both are located within a block of each other on Grand Avenue in Oakland and owned by a young couple in their thirties.  

Bay Grape, the wine shop, has been around since 2014.  I have probably walked by this shop a hundred times before stepping foot in it.  Not only is it a retail store, but it’s a community space and a “wine school”. 

Thanks to a good friend who introduced me, I’ve spent a few afternoons at Bay Grape hanging out, writing, and enjoying some wine that was just purchased at the shop.  It is totally worth the $5 corkage fee when they open the bottle, supply the glasses, and pour.  I tell you it’s a nice alternative to a coffee shop.

Bay Grape is also a place to go to pick up wine for a dinner party.  The staff, who are friendly and knowledgeable can be especially helpful when you want to pair your upcoming meal with a good wine.  

I have heard great reviews on their blind tastings.  They’ve got a “Sunday School” where I might actually pay attention.  I look forward to participating in some of their classes in the future.

Earlier this month, I dined at MAMA Oakland with my BFF.  Their website explains it well. “MAMA Oakland serves a three-course dinner seven nights a week, designed to feel like suppers at your Italian grandmother’s house. The original Mama, specifically, is Maria Germano Stacionis, an Italian-American who emigrated to Rockford, IL, from the Abruzzo region and lived her life as the consummate hostess, mother and grandmother. Mama was always the first to pour you a drink, pull out a chair, and serve you up a huge bowl of pasta, laughing with a wink of mischief and absolutely delighted by your company.”

The current price of the three course dinner is $29.95 and the menu typically changes each week.  There’s a choice of two options for each course.  The two of us selected different options so we were able to experience the entire menu that evening.  

First course options:

Tuscan kale and potato soup with crispy shoestring potatoes and smoked paprika oil. 
Roasted baby beat salad with spiced yogurt, soft lettuces, and walnuts

Second course options:

Spaghetti with Mama’s tomato sugo, beef, pork, and parmesan
Butternut squash and seared leek risotto with chanterelle mushrooms

Third course options:

Polenta cake with baked apple, whipped cream, and caramel corn
Almare Italian toasted almond and fig gelato with blackberry balsamic sauce

As wine experts, they have created a guide, which is a very neat way to help you select wine to go with your meal based on your likes and dislikes.  

Overall, the meal was simple, comforting, and delicious.  My favorite dish was the risotto.  I was pleasantly surprised that the seared leeks added so much flavor and made it the star.  I would recommend MAMA Oakland for any occasion.

The couple behind these two Oakland businesses are Josiah Baldivino and Stevie Stacionis, a super cool duo that are both certified sommeliers passionate about food, wine, and the community.  You can feel the passion when you spend time at Bay Grape or MAMA Oakland as it permeates happiness and good times.