Bellachino’s wraps it up

Eatery serves up delicious breakfast and lunch on Chico’s east side

GREAT OUTDOORS<br>Bellachino’s offers paninis, sandwiches and wraps as well as salads and coffee drinks, and patrons can eat inside or out on the patio.

Bellachino’s offers paninis, sandwiches and wraps as well as salads and coffee drinks, and patrons can eat inside or out on the patio.

Photo By Josh Graham

Bellachino’s Espresso & Panini Café
800 Bruce Rd.
Hours: Mon.-Fri., 6 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 6:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Phone: 892-2244

Bellachino’s Espresso & Panini Cafe

800 Bruce Rd.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 892-2244

Ahh … the neighborhood coffee shop—a gathering place for unhurried newspaper readers, chess players, mothers with restless toddlers and lone office staffers buried in their books.

Unlike the franchise cookie-cutter style shops that resemble sterile fast-food chains, there is something special about a real one-of-a-kind coffee shop that draws in regulars who feel as though it’s an extension of their own kitchen.

Perched on the corner of a new suburban housing district and large business compound on the corner of Bruce Road and California Park Drive, Bellachino’s Espresso & Panini Café caters to employees from nearby businesses who crowd in for morning beverages to go and quick lunch breaks, but also regulars with a little extra time who enjoy the relaxing atmosphere and excellent food.

The place was half-full of patrons when I stopped in just after noon one recent weekend after a mellow Sunday morning drive on the east side of town. It is a small café but spaciously organized. There are about 10 tables inside and a few more out on the patio facing Bruce Road. A couch and some easy chairs sit near the entrance with a coffee table littered with the day’s newspapers.

One large table hosted a small gathering of mothers with their kids, contentedly eating items from the menu which lists them as Lunches for Rug Rats: peanut butter and jelly; grilled peanut butter; honey and banana; and turkey or ham and cheese (all include potato chips for $4). There are also homemade rice crispy treats for $1.50. The café is particularly conducive to young’ns—there are a number of children’s books available.

Servers welcome customers behind a large curving countertop where they make espresso drinks. They also serve up baked treats like cinnamon rolls, carrot-cake brownies, scones, cookies and fancy cakes from the local Tin Roof Bakery (all no more than $2 apiece).

The featured mixed-berry crisp pie looked inviting, but after ordering my coffee—a large cold blended mocha ($3.85)—I was lured by the breakfast and lunch menu, which offers an array of sandwiches and wraps for $7. Some of the more popular lunch items are, of course, paninis and wraps, including the Thai chicken and the Cali Roll (ranch, cheddar, tomato, onion and avocado).

Bellachino’s stops serving breakfast at noon, but our server—not knowing I’m a food critic—made an exception and allowed my companion and me to order from both breakfast and lunch menus. Lucky for me, because I discovered the tastiest breakfast bagel I’ve ever had.

The Chico Blues bagel sandwich ($6.50) starts with a jalapeno pepper-jack bagel filled with thick, flavorful scrambled eggs spiced with bacon and sweet onion. The eggs were slathered with melted cheddar and blue cheese, and topped with cool slices of avocado.

My friend ordered a fruit smoothie ($3.50) and a Hot Italian sandwich, which comes with thick kettle chips ($7). The sandwich includes pastrami on a grilled Ciabatta roll with a slab of fresh mozzarella, onion, tomato and a generous portion of fresh spinach.

The two of us also split a chicken Caesar salad ($8) made with tender chunks of white meat over romaine lettuce, croutons, parmesan cheese and homemade garlic Caesar dressing that had a delightful hint of lemon. The salads—including the Cobb and spinach—are huge, and all the dressings are made in-house.

There are also options for non-meat eaters, such as Gardenburgers and the Hot Veggie Sandwich: smoked Gouda, tomato, onions, sprouts and spinach, as well as granola for breakfast.

Bellachino’s has been under its current ownership for two years, and in business since 2001. It’s sort of a hidden gem that most east-side inhabitants are privy to already. With its tasty food and cozy atmosphere, the café should top the list of great breakfast spots in town and is well worth a trip.