Warm on the north side

Caffé Ricci is an inviting lunch stop near Philadelphia Square

GETTING AWAY<br>Caffé Ricci offers a little slice of European life in Chico.

Caffé Ricci offers a little slice of European life in Chico.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

Caffe Ricci

3269 Esplanade
Chico, CA 95926
Ste. 155

(530) 343-2167

Strategically placed in the developing area across from Philadelphia Square, Caffé Ricci, opened by Debbie Ritchie, feels much like a European café. I was pleasantly surprised and hoped that the food would be as inviting as the atmosphere.

Still feeling the sting of a lackluster performance in my office’s Biggest Loser weight-loss competition, I decided to try a salad for lunch on my first visit. Caffé Ricci offers two lunch salads—a Caesar with house-made croutons ($6.95) or a Cobb with Romaine lettuce, cucumbers, turkey bacon, tomato, hard-boiled egg, blue cheese and blue cheese dressing ($9.95).

I opted for the Caesar with the addition of grilled chicken ($2 extra). The salad was excellent with just the right mix of Caesar dressing (not overpowering or dry), grilled chicken and Romaine lettuce. What I particularly enjoyed was the crispness and appropriate size of the lettuce, because nothing is more annoying than limp salad greens that aren’t cut into bite-sized sections.

My salad also came with slices of fresh-baked French bread, which was warm, soft and begged to be slathered with the butter pats that accompanied. The combination of large seasoned croutons (I ate only two but wanted to eat all of them) and layered slices of parmesan cheese provided quality touches to my meal.

Instead of missing out on the rest of Ricci’s menu, I decided to run an extra five miles each week so that I could indulge in the variety of baked items, daily panini sandwiches and entrée specials.

When I returned, the daily entrée special was a turkey, potato mushroom cheese crêpe platter with soup or salad ($9.95). I chose a side salad with blue cheese. Again, the salad was perfect. My crêpes arrived shortly thereafter, attractively presented on their oval platter. The crêpes were a perfect combination of potato cheese sauce, melted mozzarella, turkey chunks and mushroom slices. I ran an additional two miles the following morning because I ate both of the crêpes and all of my bread slices.

I’ve since returned to Caffé Ricci many times. The daily panini specials served on house-made ciabatta rolls, herbed foccacia bread or honey wheat bread change, well, daily, and cost $8.95. I recommend the ciabatta or herbed foccacia for their wonderful flavors and textures that do not destroy the roof of your mouth. Each day there are usually two panini offerings, one with protein and one without for the vegetarian in you. I had a Portabella mushroom panini that was just fantastic a couple of weeks ago.

The consistent sandwich offering is the hand-carved turkey with your choice of pepper jack, Swiss, cheddar or jack cheese served on honey wheat with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato for $8.95. The sandwich works wonderfully with a side salad or cup of soup. The slices of turkey are large, but not too cumbersome. The sandwich stays together for each bite making the experience all the more enjoyable.

For a recent holiday office celebration, I ordered a pumpkin cheesecake. The dessert was well worth the price and customization. The cheesecake was a huge hit and delivered a delicately balanced, light and outstanding pumpkin spice flavor. I eagerly anticipate trying out many more of Ricci’s various baked offerings.