Piccolo Napoli, St. Mark’s Nursery School Raise Some Dough

By MARIA EBERLE –  Contributing Writer

 

Monday nights aren’t typically the busiest night at Piccolo Napoli, the Italian eatery in Orinda’s Theatre Square. However, a recent Monday night saw a packed house with more than 100 preschoolers and their parents, teachers and friends, enjoying a wonderful night of great food in a fundraiser to benefit St. Mark’s Nursery School on Moraga Way.

There was plenty to smile about, as the three-hour event raised nearly $1,000, as family and teacher volunteers served lots of thin-crust Neapolitan pizzas, plates of pasta and salads to hungry customers. Claire Petersen, director and K-prep teacher at St. Mark’s, learned of Piccolo Napoli’s latest program, called “Raise Some Dough,” from Piccolo Napoli owner Peter Eberle, who recently adopted the fundraising project for Orinda and other area nonprofits.

How does “Raise Some Dough” work? Choose any Monday evening and Piccolo Napoli will donate 10 percent of sales to support the event. Join the fun by volunteering to serve meals and donate all your tips to increase your fundraising efforts. Piccolo Napoli is committed to strengthening the community in partnership with local nonprofits, school sports teams, club teams, civic organizations and churches all in an effort to raise awareness and Raise Some Dough.

To learn more about how your nonprofit can participate, call Peter Eberle at 925-255-3150.

Ariel Adair shows off one of several walls decorated with cork for a green alternative to noise. Photo: SALLY HOGARTY

Put a Cork In It at Piccolo Napoli

By ELANA O’LOSKEY
Staff Writer, The Orinda News

There are 2,790 corks on the walls of Piccolo Napoli restaurant, but 12,000 more are needed for their Put a Cork In It project.

Peter Eberle figures it takes about 90 corks to cover one square foot. They’ve covered 31 square feet so far and have 130 square feet more to go.

Their purpose is to dampen the echo in the restaurant. Eberle and his team looked at samples of common sound-absorbing materials and found them to be expensive and made of plastic and foam.

The idea for cork as a sound absorber grew out of the desire for an affordable green alternative. He uses wood glue to affix the corks to a thin wood sheet then attaches the sheets to the walls with wood screws.

“We were surprised that so many of our customers had collected lots of corks but didn’t know what to do with them,” says Eberle.

When they started bringing them in, the Put a Cork In It project was born. Cork is a precious resource and many wine producers are now using other tops. Author and biologist Janine Benyus would call what Eberle and his peeps are doing at Piccolo Napoli “bio-utilization,” meaning they are using a natural product to improve the sound quality in their restaurant and are repurposing cork as insulation to reduce the unpleasant echo.

Join the Put a Cork In It project by dropping off corks at Piccolo Napoli, 2 Theatre Square, No. 144, Orinda, 925-253-1225.

Lunch hours are 11:30 am to 5 pm Wednesday-Sunday; dinner hours are 5 pm to 9 pm daily; open Saturday and Sunday until 10 pm.

Visit www.piccolo-napoli.com.

Photo: SALLY HOGARTY

Piccolo Napoli

Putting a Personal Face On Local Business

by Valerie Hotz

Piccolo Napoli for Authentic Italian Pasta, Pizza and Gelato

Orinda has an abundance of excellent restaurants and another new addition – Piccolo Napoli – opened inside Theatre Square this summer.  Located near Entourage Spa & Salon and across from Republic of Cake, this new Italian restaurant is family owned and managed by native Orindan Peter Eberle and his wife Maria.  Their four children, Aja, Hailey, Alex and Ariel fulfill their responsibilities at the pizzeria after school and during the summer.

Eberle spent the past 20 years trading on the options exchanges in San Francisco, Chicago and New York.  “We lived in Germany and traveled extensively in Italy, and basically have been eating pizza everywhere we travel.  We really wanted to have our own restaurant and incorporate my wife’s family recipes, especially here in my hometown.  Maria’s maiden name is Napoli, and we are excited to provide delicious specialty Italian dishes from her family’s authentic recipes,” explains Eberle.

With a primary focus on pizza, Piccolo Napoli offers classic starters including Caprese Mozzarella salad, Bruschetta and Caesar salad.  The main course dishes are Fettuccini Alfredo, Spaghetti Di Carne and Penne Pollo – Penne pasta with grilled chicken and homemade pesto sauce.  Eggplant Parmigian and a meatball dish made with super moist pork, beef and veal round out the main course offerings.  The Piccolo Napoli pesto sauce is pine nut free, and a gluten free nine-inch pizza is available.

Pizza selections range from the uncomplicated six-cheese blend, grape tomatoes with local pepperoni, to Pietro’s pizza featuring fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, organic basil and truffle oil.  What is really fun about this place is having the opportunity to make your own pizza from a wide assortment of ingredients, such as fresh mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sautéed spinach, red onions, caramelized onions, pineapple, pears, prosciutto – the list goes on.  An attractive beer selection includes Angry Orchard Hard Cider, Shock Top Belgian White, Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada, Goose Island IPA and Bud Light. (Restaurant note: tap beers will rotate regularly.)A nice assortment of wine offerings from Italy and Northern California is available by the glass or by the bottle.

The interior has a 1950’s Roy Lichtenstein pop art flavor to it, featuring bold horizontal striped walls, a motif accomplished by Eberle’s sister-in-law, Carmen Napoli, an artist who does murals for the Ritz Carlton and other establishments.  Outdoor seating in Theatre Square is available where up to 22 guests can be accommodated.  You will not want to miss the gelato.  The current flavors are vanilla, salted caramel, spumoni, and decadent chocolate, with more flavors being added regularly.  “Our customers are a real pleasure and I enjoy seeing how excited people are about our pizzas,” says Eberle.  “Chef Sarah Pugh joined us from Bonfire Pizzeria.  She has done a great job helping with many details,” he adds.

Peter and Maria enjoy golf and swimming, with Peter competing in triathlons.  “I like doing a half Iron Man triathlon every year,” he says. (Restaurant note: since original publication of this article, Peter has completed a full Iron Man in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and plans to do another soon in Tahoe.) Their children are involved in water polo, swimming, rugby and theatre arts.  Alex and Hailey attend Miramonte high school, Ariel graduates Campolindo High School in June, 2014, and Aja is studying at UC Santa Cruz.  “We have a very active and engaged household.  Everyone, including Maria, works at Piccolo Napoli,” smiles Eberle.

Lunch hours are 11:30 am to 5:00 pm Wednesday-Sunday, dinner hours are 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily; Saturday and Sunday they are open until 10:00 pm. “We will stay open until our guests want to leave,” adds Eberle.  Piccolo Napoli is a member of the Orinda Chamber of Commerce.  For more information, visit the website at www.piccolo-napoli.com or call (925) 253-1225. (Restaurant note:  home delivery is now available in Orinda from 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm.)

As published in the Orinda News 

Piccolo Napoli

Piccolo Napoli Owners Share a Traditional Family Favorite – Eggplant Parmesan!

By Susie Iventosch

Piccolo Napoli is a brand new, family-run, Italian restaurant and pizzeria located in Orinda’s Theatre Square. The restaurant is owned by Peter and Maria Eberle, who employ the services of their high school and college-aged children – when they are not busy with their many competitive sports. Eberle, a local fellow who graduated from Miramonte and attended UC Berkeley and is a recent graduate of the Wharton Executive MBA program, says the family is very active in the local sports scene.

This is Eberle’s first solo venture in the restaurant business and he is pleased with the busy evenings and the community response. The restaurant offers table service inside and outdoors, as well as take-out (and now delivery service to Orinda) and excellent-value lunch specials “to go” or “dine in.” In addition to several pasta dishes and house-made soups there is a variety of specialty, thin-crust Neapolitan style pizzas that can satisfy those who prefer traditional pizza sauce, pesto as sauce or no sauce at all. There’s also a gluten-free option for pizzas and pastas.

The menu includes bruschetta, Caesar, house and spinach salads, a great selection of wines both by the glass and bottle, Angry Orchard Hard Apple Cider, six beers on tap, gelato and several other delicious Italian desserts.

According to Eberle, they use doppio zero (00) flour, a high-protein flour, which holds up well under the weight of sauce, cheese and all of the other pizza toppings. The gluten-free pizza crust is made by Mariposa Bakery in Oakland.

“We use fairly simple, always fresh ingredients, but we select organic, locally-sourced products,” Eberle said. “We use a pepperoni made right in Oakland.”

That all sounds fantastic, but I am here to tell you, Peter and Maria shared Maria’s Eggplant Parmesan recipe with me and it is to die for! Maria says the recipe has been a family favorite for many generations. She was taught how to make it by her father, Frank Napoli, who in turn learned it from his mother, Caroline Cappuccio Napoli. Maria’s family hails from Naples, Calabria and Rome, by way of New Jersey.

“The trick to any great eggplant dish is to prep eggplants in advance, by sweating and draining their extra water content,” Maria instructs. “Eggplant contains a lot of moisture, which can ruin any dish. This simple sweating and draining procedure does take time and requires some cooking patience, but its impact on the taste and texture of the eggplant is truly profound.”

One simple method that Eberle suggests is to peel the eggplants, or keep the eggplant skin intact for extra nutrients, and simple sweat them by thinly slicing them into rounds, salting them heavily and letting them rest for one to two hours. Afterward, pat off the excess water that the salt helped remove. I used her approach and it worked very well. The texture of the eggplant in the finished dish was firm, not soggy at all.

My family really enjoyed this recipe, which easily filled a 9×13 baking dish. I have to admit, though I have a fairly small appetite, I went back for thirds…a rare occasion for me!

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe
Ingredients

3 large eggplants, skin intact (or peeled as desired), sliced into thin rounds (1/4-1/2 inch thick) and “sweated” as in method above.

1-2 cups excellent quality extra-virgin olive oil (added to the pan as needed.)

Flour mixture:
1 ½ cups flour
Salt & pepper to taste

Egg mixture:
4 eggs, whisked in a bowl
¼ cup milk mixed into eggs

Breading mixture:
2 cups Italian flavored bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Garlic powder to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

For layering:
2 lbs. sliced fresh Mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan or other favorite Italian grating cheese, such as Pecorino
Romano or Asiago
(Note * I used closer to 2 cups for good coverage)
4-6 cups warmed Marinara sauce, homemade is best but a good prepared sauce will work wonders in a pinch.

Directions

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan, 1/3 cup at a time (do not burn the oil!) Dip eggplant slices into flour mixture, then into egg mixture, then breading mixture. Place side by side in pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until a delightful golden brown, then flip and cook the other side for only a few more minutes. Repeat process until all the eggplant slices are fried, and use all the various sized pieces. Add oil after each batch of eggplant is removed.

Remove the fried eggplant slices as they cook and drain on paper towel-covered plates.

When ready to layer, pour a few large spoonfuls of sauce on the bottom of a deep baking pan, such as a lasagna pan or roasting pan.

Place the fried eggplant side by side in rows covering the bottom of the pan.

Cover the eggplant with sliced Mozzarella, sprinkle with grated cheese and cover with more sauce.

Repeat the layers until you reach the top of the pan, three layers deep, with the final topping being the Mozzarella and grated cheese, and just a small amount of sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, covered with aluminum foil, and 5-10 minutes uncovered to be sure the cheese has melted beautifully. (Note* My baking dish was quite full, so I tented the aluminum foil, giving the cheese some space, so as not to stick to the foil.)