Michael and Jacky Recchiuti, who own the Recchiuti Confections and Little Nib chocolate shops, opened their first sweet and savory cafe, Chocolate Lab, in the former Piccino restaurant space in Dogpatch on November 16. The menu incorporates light meal offerings like charcuterie and cheese plates and tartines with wine (French, Italian, and Russian River Valley) and flights of chocolate and ice cream concoctions. It's a sophisticated environment that belies how much youthful decadence is available here.
While Chocolate Lab would be a nice place to visit in the afternoon, it's also conveniently open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. There are tables that can seat up to five people as well as a large communal table and counter seating.
Being a Recchiuti groupie of sorts, we had to visit the Lab on the first day of service and flood our table with both savory and sweet options in the name of research. Each was presented with elegance and simple, powerful flavors. The cheese plate included whimsical selections such as the espresso-rubbed Barely Buzzed cheese from Beehive Dairy and honey made from the Recchiuti's own bees. A tall float held layers of extra bitter chocolate sauce, chocolate malt ice cream and cream soda (which can be subbed for root beer); it proved hard to daintily sip through a straw and needed to be quickly guzzled (aka mainlined) straight into the system.
The sauce appeared again in containers to pour over a pleasingly soft and fudgy brownie and the Lab's masterpiece of an ice cream sundae, served with burnt caramel ice cream, chocolate covered peanut butter pearls, burnt caramel hazelnuts and almonds, and four torched marshmallows. And even though it was a flavor that appeared in every dessert ordered, we never tired of it and emptied each one faithfully.
This is the kind of place where you can sip wine with your little pinkie up at the same time as you pig out with abandon like the adult child that you are.