OAKLAND — Fear was supposedly gripping Rockridge residents and merchants after a rare restaurant robbery Monday night.

If they are so scared, why was College Avenue lined with patrons Tuesday night and again Wednesday and again Thursday?

It may be the balmy weather or a last fling before school starts next week, but merchants and their customers have said the past few nights have been busier than usual.

The robbery happened just before 11 p.m. Monday as Pasta Pomodoro workers were closing up for the night. Closing time was 10 p.m., so the restaurant was empty, but the door was still unlocked.

The next night, stepped-up police patrols were in plain sight along College Avenue, where Pasta Pomodoro is located.

A trio of Oakland officers sat on the restaurant's patio surrounded by scores of diners, and undercover officers roamed.

The news of the robbery by two masked men took residents of the tony neighborhood lined with charming shops, eateries and bars by surprise. Although it spurred residents to be more safety conscious, Sarah Lamb, manager of the Rockridge District Association, said panic and fear are not dominating the scene.

Perhaps the robbery created a stir among the media because it followed eight other restaurant holdups, Lamb said.

Police have not determined if the Pasta Pomodoro robbery and the others — all in different districts across the city — are related, said police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason.


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Rockridge is not immune to crime, said Christopher Rossi, owner and executive chef of Citron, an elegant restaurant at College and Lawton avenues.

Thieves, Rossi said, have broken into his place several times to steal pork products.

He added security and reinforced the doors.

Stealing pork might have been more lucrative than robbing restaurants, Rossi added, because during tight economic times customers tend to use credit cards instead of cash.

The returns might be too low to justify the risk.

"We are doing what we can to make customers safe," Rossi said, referring to a variety of security upgrades small and large.

He is not locking the doors during service hours, however. "No. 1, the fire marshal would have a fit if we locked up during customer hours," Rossi said.

"We can't live in fear," he said. "Citron is in Oakland, and Oakland is a great city. "

Next door at À Côté, Anita Aaron, a visually impaired diner, was waiting with her husband for a table. She said the robbery made her think twice about what to carry with her and how to deal with a holdup situation.

"But obviously it didn't keep us from coming out."

Safety is something to be aware of, the restaurant's hostess added.

Sipping cocktails at À Côté's busy bar, Felicia Roche said she was horrified when she learned about the robbery because the holdup "removed the safety veil of Rockridge."

"I thought we were safe here, but I guess we're not," the Laurel District resident said, adding her neighborhood and others have been hit hard by crime, but not received as much media attention.

It took a robbery in usually safe Rockridge to outrage the community, Roche said.

"I guess that was basically the wake-up call."

Unless the community stays outraged, said Roche's companion, Sheri Reynolds, "the encroachment will continue." She recommended keeping patrol officers on their beats long-term so they know the neighborhood.

More police "couldn't hurt," Roche said. "It's not a solution, but it seems like a start."

In fact, the Rockridge District Association is working to increase security by adding police and deploying private security guards to the streets at night.

The police, in turn, are working with the Guardian Angels volunteer security patrols, Thomason said.

In the meantime, the association is seeking funds to pay for the added security from the Business Improvement District, National Crime Prevention Council and the city.

Rockridge Association members also are organizing a candlelight-flashlight stroll along College Avenue between the College/Broadway intersection and 63rd Street beginning 9 p.m. today.

That is the kind of collective action the city needs more of, said David Kupler, who stopped to point out a broken street lamp and dim outside lighting.

It doesn't take much to participate in a community, even if it is just by contributing ideas, Kupler said.

"An active community would change the face of the country."

To reach the Nite Owl, e-mail me at awoodall@bayareanewsgroup.com or visit the Night Owl blog www.ibabuzz.com/nightowl for more events and oddities.

To Attend
Rockridge Association members are organizing a candlelight-flashlight stroll along College Avenue between the College/Broadway intersection and 63rd Street beginning 9 p.m. today.