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Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Trip to Spain Without Leaving Louisville

If the thought of long TSA lines, extra airline charges for everything, including an assigned seat and a suitcase, leaves you reluctant to even think about travel to Europe, consider instead a visit to Caffe Classico where you will be transported in an instant from Louisville’s Frankfort Avenue to a Spanish café.

On Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and some Saturday nights, you will be greeted not only by a friendly host but also the soft background music of live flamenco guitar by Gareth Jones.

We recently enjoyed such a getaway and a satisfying meal at Caffe Classico. We sipped a crisp Caposaldo Pinot Grigio from Italy ($7.50/$25) as we munched an order of Belgian Pomme Frittes (7.50).

Caffe Classico offers a solid selection of wines, beers, and even soft drinks (for example, Fever Tree Ginger Ale, $2.25; Aranciata, Limonata, $2.50) and coffees (not only Espresso, Cappuccino, and the like but Caffe Roma, Melange and Cortado from $2.50 to $5.00), and a full bar.

The Frittes are the perfect indulgent appetizer for someone with a gluten allergy. As anyone with a gluten allergy or intolerance can tell you, he or she usually is left hungrily eyeing other diners who can partake of all the tasty, non-gluten-friendly appetizers at the same time they chow down on warm bread. Not so at Caffe Classico.

Many of the appetizers, which range in price from $7.50 to $13.95, are or can be served gluten free or vegetarian: Tapita Rustica, a cheese plate of artisan cheeses from sapori d’italia, rustic hard salami, grapes, olives, figs and baguette slices; Croquetas De Salmon ($9.50); Mussels ($9.00); Empanadas, three baked Argentinian style beef, chicken or vegetarian empanadas ($9.75); and Huevos Fritos al Caballo, a heaping helping of frittes topped by two sunny-side-up eggs garnished with tomato vinaigrette ($8.50).

A diner could easily be content ordering from just the appetizer list. But we were not. We next chose from the variety of tasty and good-sized salads on the menu, including standards such as Caesar, Greek, Nicoise, and the out-of-the ordinary: Ensalada Fresca (fresh mixed greens with fresh tangerine wedges and pine nuts); Tortoni Buenos Aires (chef salad), priced from $7.00 to $9.50. Most can be ordered in half sizes or shared. For an additional charge, chicken, shrimp, steak or salmon can be added to any of the salads.

After sharing the Frites we each had half salads.  I enjoyed the standard Caesar salad, without croutons; my partner enjoyed the Greek salad with black olives, cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and pepperoncini. Both of the half salads were well-made with fresh ingredients and generously-sized.

I ordered as an entrée the 7 oz. salmon, which came nicely browned in a technique I’ve tried to duplicate at home by sautéing at high temperature. After a lot of grease spatters and not quite as good a result, I’m happy to leave this particular preparation to Caffe Classico. The asparagus spears served on the side were roasted and tasty but the woody ends could have been trimmed—or broken as my momma taught me to do—a little more. Mashed sweet potato was another fine side. But placing it under the salmon, as is the current dining style to create a pyramid of the items served with the entrée as if the chef is in a remake of Spielberg’s “Close Encounters”, resulted in the unfortunate smearing of salmon puree on the salmon, thus obscuring the taste and crisp texture of the salmon. I’d urge Caffe Classico either to go back to serving rounds of un-mashed sweet potatoes or placing the mashed sweet taters truly on the side.

My spouse enjoyed the Garlic Shrimp Linguine, a generous serving of shrimp atop linguine in a garlic, white wine, and butter sauce. I don’t think you can go wrong with that combination of ingredients. Caffe Classico nicely complimented the delicate sauce with pine nuts, baby spinach and fresh asiago.

Other entrees include a variety of meat selections: Steak Frittes, Flank Steak, Sausages Alemania, Pork Tenderloin Con Grappa Miel, and Chicken Roulade, all with interesting sides. Vegetarian choices include Mediterranean Vegetable Pasta and Saffron Asiago Risotto Cakes. Entrée prices ranged from $15.00 to $18.00.

Soups, pizzas, and sandwiches, including a variety of paninis and classic Argentinian and Spanish sandwiches, round out the menu. But a diner who wants a fuller European experience would be wise to consider trying, as we did on another visit, the Iberian Jamon (Spain’s legendary ham) menu, which ranges in price from $6.00, for a tasting portion, to $30.00 for a full plate of Jamon Iberico. As the menus says, “Delicioso!!”.

After three courses, we were too satiated to consider dessert. Though we enjoyed watching a couple near us share chocolate chip ice cream.

Caffe Classico is closed Monday, and open Tuesday 10-3, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 am to 10 pm, and Sundays, 9-4 for brunch. Bueno provecho! or Bon appetite! 

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