Your a’Panini awaits
Henri and Colette stay for Euro Café's food, but leave for the wine
Euro Cafe3217 Cohasset Rd.
Chico, CA 95973
Growing up in the Midwest, Henri was subjected to more than his share of grilled-cheese sandwiches. While the idea of the grilled-cheese is not necessarily offensive, its Midwestern form—airy processed bread, a thin slice of indistinct yellow cheese, Morehouse mustard, mayonnaise, grilled or, more accurately, fried in margarine—is absolutely hideous, even with a decent Bordeaux to wash it down.
Of course my parents shuddered at the thought and would have sooner served Vienna sausages at Chez Bourride than traditional Midwestern grilled-cheese sandwiches. In fact, mon père, aghast at their popularity, finally decided to fight le feu with le feu and began serving his own version of grilled sandwiches, which he called Bourridinis, with French bread and a variety of vegetables, meats and cheeses, including tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, chicken, pork and a good Swiss cheese, with aioli instead of mayonnaise.
They were simply his version of panini, literally “little breads,” traditional grilled Italian sandwiches typically made with ciabatta, a thick-crusted Italian white bread often flavored with herbs such as rosemary. When traveling in Italy as a younger man, I frequently had panini with my wine for lunch, grateful that my father had instilled in me an appreciation for well-made sandwiches.
Naturally, then, when Henri heard that a restaurant specializing in panini had recently opened, I insisted that Colette join me to see if it measured up.
Euro Café opened in early December in the new La Dolce Piazza on the corner of Lassen and Cohasset. Aiming to bring “a touch of Europe to Chico,” the little eatery offers—in addition to seven different types of panini—green and pasta salads, soups by the cup and bowl, smoothies, pastries, 10 different flavors of gelato, and a wide range of hot and iced coffee drinks, from cappuccinos to macchiatos.
The bright modern dining room feels very European, with just a handful of small tables—a couple are taller, with stools instead of chairs. There’s also a large comfy couch against a far wall, perfect for snuggling up with an espresso and the morning paper (or your laptop and catching up on your e-mail—the café offers free wireless).
Panini ($7.50) are served on herb or rosemary focaccia or bagels and come with soup or pasta salad. Choices include the Tuscany (fresh mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and Roma tomatoes), the Geneva (Black Forest ham, Swiss cheese and Roma tomatoes) and the Sicily (salami, roasted red peppers, pepperoncini, provolone), all with aioli. There’s also a kids’ menu, about which Colette remarked, “This is one reason I’m glad I don’t have children. Can you imagine having to ask for the Fluffer Nutter?”
The Fluffer Nutter?
“Don’t even go there,” she scolded.
I shrugged, then cringed, imagining some Kid-Gapped 3-year-old losing his marshmallow, peanut butter and banana sandwich ($4.75) in the depths of his urban Baby Jogger stroller.
Colette ordered the Paris (chicken breast, fresh mozzarella, roasted bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, artichoke hearts and pesto aioli) with the pasta salad, and I had the Geneva and the minestrone. Very good all around, especially the deliciously rich minestrone and the Paris panini, the gooey cheese melting into the artichoke hearts. I was way too full for dessert but couldn’t pass up a small cookies-and-cream gelato for the road, Colette driving so that I could enjoy it without distraction.
When we got home, I opened a bottle of Heitz Cellars cabernet and we drank a toast to Bourridinis, and lamented Café Euro’s one fault: no wine. Now how European is that?