Friday, December 21, 2012

those days*

i realise i dont have any pictures of bertolas, outside or inside. they must exist. somewhere! but where? i visited often in the 80s. by october 1990 it was gone. i hadnt gone the last month or 2. certainly it had changed. but in those glorious days of the early and mid 80s i was there often. i miss it to this day. not just the food and drink but the atmosphere. there was a sign out front that must have amused passerby:  'HOW CAN YOU LOSE' with the drink prices which were 50 cents for a single, 75 cents for a double and $1 for a triple!! as mentioned i usually went for a double gin/tonic. by the third one ron is pouring you a triple. this was cash on the bar, no credit card or bar code. this was the real thing. it could be tough to get a slot at the bar on a busy friday or saturday, and thus i would usually avoid those nites. black & white movie posters of bogart and others on the wall. a bar entrance and a family entrance. but on one of those glorious friday or saturday nites, 23 years ago this weekend, i went to bertolas for a few drinks, and then on to the OMNI club on shattuck, which was in the old ligurian club see jack bruce play, even ginger baker was with him on drums! the mad drummer himself....oakland was a lot of fun then. it probably is now, but it isnt what it used to be, not even my beloved temescal!


in november 1980 i moved back to north oakland after being away some 15 years. the apartment was #26 in the canadian arms, 439 49th st, 2 blocks east of telegraph. 49th street was to be home, off and on for the next 23 years. tho of course, it is still home. no one else called the building the canadian arms, but that was and is the name of the building. now i think it is even named on the directory. there was a great restaurant right down the street at 45th & telegraph called bertolas. it probably opened in the 1930s. ed jennings told me about it, tho i later found out some relatives used to eat there. but i had never been until i moved to 49th st. most people would call it an old fashioned italian restaurant: those red & white checked tablecloths, the movie posters, the bar in the middle, and the dim lights. i loved it. a typical meal would start with minestrone soup and then some salad. the salad was just iceberg lettuce with one (1) piece of salami. no tomato or onion. always a lot of bread.  then the spaghetti, which may have been served with the veal. i used to order the veal regularly. if one wanted more bread, they would bring it to you. there were always waitresses. no waiters. of course  there was also a gin & tonic at the beginning, and then cheap burgundy with the meal. later of course i used to frequent the bar, and ron would be pouring the perfect double gin/tonic when he would see me coming in. sometimes i would get a meal to go after the 2nd gin & tonic. if i got the to go meal it would be the soup and spaghetti, not the veal. bertolas may have been the only bar where i was practically a regular, tho i didnt talk to most of the other drinkers. i would eat or drink at bertolas as much alone as with friends.  and one could stumble back to the building in 5 minutes or less, always with a smile and some leftovers.....