Acre brings crispy chicken and blistered pizzas to the storied Oliveto space in the East Bay

Acre opened in the storied Oliveto space in December last year. Photo credit: Acre
A toast dish at the Rockridge restaurant Acre

Holiday shoppers picking up pies at Rockridge Market Hall were in for a warm surprise this season: Acre Kitchen & Bar has fired up the hearth in the storied Oliveto space and has been serving up blistered pizzas, crispy chicken, and fresh salads since December 19.

Reimagining a classic is no easy task, but co-owners Dirk Tolsma and Pete Sittnick have more than 50 years of experience working at top Bay Area restaurants between them. Tolsma, the chef at Acre, is an alum of San Francisco brasserie Baker & Banker, and Wine Country stars Cyrus and Auberge du Soleil, while Sittnick is a hospitality veteran of restaurants such as Embarcadero seafood spot Waterbar. The duo met and hit it off during their time at steakhouse EPIC. When Tolsma wanted to open his own restaurant, he was certain he had to do it with Sittnick.

They lucked out on the lease to Oliveto, which closed after a 35-year run in April 2022. After years of working at upscale restaurants, Tolsma wanted something casual. He also wants to bike to work, which he can now do from his home in the neighboring Dimond District. 

“I want to cook food that people want to eat every day,” Tolsma says. “The best meals I’ve ever had weren’t the fanciest. They were oftentimes the meals that for one reason or another allowed me to celebrate the moment.”

A series of plates with hands reaching to get them at Rockridge restaurant Acre.
Acre serves different menus in its upstairs and downstairs dining areas. Photo credit: Acre.

Tolsma wants to preserve Oliveto’s seasonal cooking legacy, though he’s less focused on pasta. “We don’t want to go toe-to-toe with the masters of pasta,” he says of Oliveto. Instead, he’s having a little bit of fun with his family’s memories.

The shareable jumbo shrimp drenched in garlic butter is a nod to his grandfather, whose birthday treat was jumbo shrimp from Berkeley institution Spenger’s. Tolsma’s Dutch roots come alive in the brunch menu with a thick slice of Dutch toast slathered with butter and sprinkled with chocolate from Holland. “It beats Nutella, I’ll tell you that,” Tolsma says.

And that’s just a small taste of what the chef has in store for the two-story restaurant, which is doing different menus for the upstairs and downstairs like its predecessor. Don’t expect a strictly fancy versus casual delineation, though. Cozy up next to the hearth on the ground floor and lunch on Neapolitan-style pizzas such as the Gold Rush, with thinly sliced potatoes, hunks of pancetta, and ultra creamy Mt. Tam cheese.

For dinner, grab a seat upstairs and choose from some of the smaller plates of burrata in a nest of juicy pomelo and crispy sunchoke chips or bay scallops in Pernod, tangerine, and honey. Next, go for larger options such as a whole grilled branzino smothered in skordalia, where Tolsma has replaced the traditional mashed potatoes with cauliflower. 

A woman pouring drinks at the Oakland restaurant Acre.
Come to Acre for spritzes, martinis, and Manhattans. Photo credit: Acre

Cocktails come courtesy of Brian Sheehy of the popular Future Bars group (Bourbon & Branch, Rickhouse). He’s crafted a menu of classics with a twist, including orange spritzes, grapefruit martinis, and black Manhattans.

The interior of the Rockridge restaurant Acre with sleek wooden chairs and round marble tables.
Acre has a cozy downstairs dining area and a spacious upstairs. Photo credit: Acre

Head on through the tall entryway into this triangular restaurant, which underwent a full renovation courtesy of designer Doug Washington. The street-facing ground-floor windows provide excellent people-watching opportunities on either side. You’ll find multiple dining areas spread out over 3,000 square feet of space upstairs, which is accessed through a spiral staircase. Washington added a second full bar upstairs to pour cocktails on both levels.

Come summer, Tolsma and Sittnick plan to throw open the restaurant’s large double doors and order fresh arrangements from the flower shop in the market to liven up the space even more.

“Having that life and energy flowing through these restaurants and dining rooms and markets is really special,” Tolsma says. “And we really hope to capture that energy.”

The chef Dirk Tolsma at his Rockridge restaurant Acre
After years of working at fine dining restaurants chef Dirk Tolsma wanted to keep things casual at Acre. Photo credit: Acre

Acre is open upstairs Sunday to Wednesday from 5 pm to 9 pm, and Thursday to Saturday from 5 pm to 9:30 pm. The downstairs is open Sunday to Wednesday from 11 am to 9 pm, and Thursday to Saturday from 11 am to 9:30 pm.

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Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.


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