I changed my mind about where to go for lunch and I ended up on Las Olas. I hadn't been to Caffe Europa in a while, so I parked and headed over. It looks like they've changed the name to "Cucina Italiana" from Trattoria. I arrived at about 2:15pm.
There's a hostess stand, but no hostess. I got the usual pointing to the bar, but I don't want to sit at an unmanned, empty bar at lunch time. So I had to wait for a server to show me to a table.
The place is pretty dreary at lunch; dark, just a few people; the owner sitting in the corner.
Cafe Europa Dining Room
I ordered iced tea and looked at the menu. A very weak lunch menu. Sandwiches, pizza, salads, all with about a $15 price point. No wonder the place is dead. Another Italian place where I can't get veal parmesan for lunch. No chicken or veal dishes, except chicken parm, which I'll never order for $14.
Bread came out while I was deciding.
Cafe Europa Bread
Crusty bread; no butter so I had to use the table oil. Too much crust on the bread for dipping though.> I ended up ordering a special "Chicken Milanese Caprese", which was described as "Chicken Milanese with a caprese salad and a vinaigrette".
Music here is very low; when you can't make it out it can't be too annoying. Something that caught my eye was the decorations; you have all of these big paintings, and then by the kitchen they have bags of dry pasta.
Cafe Europa Dry Pasta
Now 40 years ago, when you could only get Ronzoni or Meullers in the supermarket, "Italian" pasta might have been something unique. Nowadays, I kind of expect expensive restaurants to at least use fresh pasta, if they don't make it in house.
The "chef" brought out the dish.
Cafe Europa Milanese Caprese
There was a thin sliced breaded cutlet under there; yes 1 cutlet. Kind of a rough cut caprese; usually you get layers of tomatoes and mozzarella and basil; If there was a dressing I couldn't really taste it. If I had to come up with 1 word to describe the dish it would be "unremarkable". I felt like I was eating at the fresh market salad bar; a breaded cutlet and a couple of scoops of the tomato mozzarella salad. $15 for 1 cutlet and a salad.
Cafe Europa used to be a good value; I wouldn't come here again for lunch.
When I first saw the place I really liked it, and as a wine bar I still do. But it doesn't really feel like a restaurant. The servers just seem to be going through the motions; who wants to work in a place where the owner is there all of the time? It just feels like a big wine cafe.
I used to come here for wine once in a while, but their bartenders ranged from weird to un-personable. One of them only seemed to speak Italian; and I don't speak Italian.
Another place for a $20 lunch on Las Olas.
Caffe Europa was once an icon on Las Olas; a friendly Italian cafe right in the center of the Las Olas Scene. Their large outdoor patio was perfect for people watching while having some coffee, lunch, dinner or a pizza. They re-opened Monday at 910 Las Olas Boulevard. And Oh what a place it is.
The modern furniture on the modest patio and the dual glass entry doors don't prepare you for what's inside. As you open the door, you realize that this isn't the old Cafe Europa with old pictures of New York and styrofoam statue of liberty images. Tony Cupelli, the long time owner of Cafe Europa, has truly outdone himself. Everything that was wrong with the old Cafe Europa is no more. The cramped bar, retail style display cases and TVs at un-viewable angles have been replaced by a large 16 seat black granite-look bar with a huge flat screen TV in the center, a well-lit display case up front that teases patrons with sugary goodies as they enter, and modern furniture reminiscent of a sleek, Italian cafe. The only thing remaining is the lawyer dude in the corner seat, as if he never left.
The dining room is adorned with large, modern artwork and sleek tables and chairs. The kitchen is partially open so you can see the chefs running around and doing their thing. >
I went in after they'd been open about 2 weeks and the staff was completely different than before. I ordered an Eggplant Parmesan special which wasn't on the regular menu. It was completely different than it used to be: it was baked with layers of basil and didn't come with any pasta. I'd heard that they'd been through a few chefs, so I thought I'd try it again. The price was up to $13 for lunch, which is kinda steep for a lunch portion. I did get bread and olive oil dip so it was plenty of food.
Caffe Europa Eggplant Parmesan
This version was much better than the first: unbreaded with a slice of mozzarella; it also had a layer of ricotta cheese which I've never encountered before with eggplant. It was pretty good; it could have used a bit more sauce but overall It wasn't a bad dish.
On a previous visit I'd ordered up one of my favorite dishes, orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage.
Orecchiette with Rapini and Italian Sausage
It was a pretty good version. The original menu we have says "shaved garlic" but it wasn't shaved here. It could have been a bit more garlicky. $17 is a pretty high price for a lunch portion of this; they give you a lot of pasta but I'd prefer more rapini to the pasta.
Some of their old servers are back also; the crew that opened the place to widely bad reviews is largely gone now. Prices are up across the board, so it fits in with the other places on Las Olas. The food is better; and it's a pretty nice place.