Beloved Piedmont Avenue Italian spot Dopo will serve its last lasagna on Saturday, and the owners say that not enough has been done by federal, state, and local governments to prevent a mass die-off of restaurants.
Chef-owner Jon Smulewitz and his wife Kayta brought some welcome fresh blood and delicious food to the Piedmont corridor, and Dopo (Italian for "after") was an instant neighborhood success when it debuted in 2003. Trained in the kitchen at the famed Oliveto, Smulewitz was a master of rustic, comforting, simple Sicilian cuisine — as well as pizza and salumi — and the restaurant's success would lead to expansion in 2009 with the more salumi-focused Adesso down the street, garnering a James Beard Award nomination.
Adesso closed in 2017 after a respectable eight-year run, but Dopo soldiered on, and the Smulewitz opened a new project last year on Fourth Street in Berkeley, the Roman-style pizza spot Pollara.
This week, they lamented on Instagram that the time had come to shut Dopo's doors after 17 years, despite the loyalty of regulars who have been ordering takeout weekly since March.
"It is with bruised hearts that we must tell you that dopo is closing," they write. "We are sad, frustrated, angry. The government has failed restaurants and small businesses; each one lost is a small ecosystem down, a network of people negatively impacted. Each one lost is heartbreaking & infuriating. We’re struggling with this loss & we’ll be processing it for a long time."
They add, "Dopo’s strength is the community we’ve built together. And that’s not going anywhere; it’s merely changing shape."
Many independent restaurants have been suffering the last few months, perhaps keeping some staff on through PPP loans, perhaps doing decent takeout and delivery business. But for the most part, almost every restaurant has been making a fraction of their usual revenue without the ability to serve people inside and sell multiple rounds of beer, wine, or cocktails to a table. The profit margins on food have always been very slim to begin with.
Dopo's final night of service, if you're in the neighborhood and want to say goodbye, will be October 3. According to Berkeleyside, Pollara will remain in business.
While this certainly won't be the last obituary for a shuttered restaurant, we hope that more longtime neighborhood staples like Dopo make it through than don't.