It's been a long time since I've checked out Lake Merritt at night. I really need to get out more.

The change is impressive. There are cafés and people everywhere -- a beautiful blend of humanity coming together to celebrate the near-perfect weather in Oakland.

The café we chose was Barlago, (550 Grand Ave.) owned by the friend of my dinner companion. Rockridge restaurateur Phil Raskin had been negotiating with ZZA's Enoteca on this space for more than a year. I love what he's done with the place -- lots of warm, reclaimed wood and vintage photographs of the lake, along with Oakland artist Lecy Brito's creative touches like the pressed tin ceiling in the private dining room.

My friend had grilled salmon and I had piccata -- although I was tempted to order the pizza with freshly shucked clams (something I'll try on my next visit). Everything was delicious.

Outside, the twentysomethings sipped drinks at the sidewalk bar, adding to the energy of Adams Point and the lake scene. It was a snapshot of everything good about our town.

Around town: Grill One Carvery is going Greek in Montclair. The Boukis brothers, George and Harry, are retooling their hofbrau-style eatery to serve all Greek food when they reopen this month. The new restaurant will be called Kokzina -- Greek for "kitchen."


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"What we found in Oakland, especially Montclair, is people are shooting for a lighter-type meal ... lighter, healthier and definitely ethnic," George says. The new menu will include family recipes, including handmade, hand-stacked gyros and a "to die for" Cretan rice with a lemony flavor.

Roll 'em: Does anyone know where the dice rollers went? In reporter Mimi Rohr's article about the Silver Dragon's last day, she mentioned it was a local hangout where liar's dice was played. Reader Nancy S. says she loves to play dice games and would like to join the group if they're reconvening nearby. Let me know, and I'll pass the word.

Email bag: If you've ever wanted to teach -- and give back -- here is your opportunity. Reader Catherine O'Connell is looking for volunteers for the Oakland-based WriterCoach Connection. They bring teams of trained "coaches" into the schools to help students with writing assignments. "The volunteer commitment is small -- just one-two hours, two-three weeks per month," says O'Connell, and the next training session starts in September. Find out more at http://www.writercoachconnection.org/.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.