Whether you’re out to impress a date or looking for a quiet haven with wonderful food that’s elegantly presented and reasonably priced, Café Eleganza is a great option.
Our trio arrived early one recent Saturday evening with sufficiently sharp appetites to consume a feast, and feast we did. We were seated in an attractive dining room with walls painted a deep gold, enhanced with dark wood accents and brightly colored abstract paintings. Although the décor was contemporary, the rich colors, coupled with a black ceiling, resulted in a cozy and intimate feel.
Our waitress, at our elbow only moments after we sat down, took drink orders and supplied a basket of crusty bread, along with plates of olive oil and shaved pecorino cheese for dipping. The tasty combination kept us happily chewing while we checked out the menu.
Appetizer and salad choices are extensive and range in price from $5 for a cup of chowder up to $9 for such selections as mussels or buffalo chicken.
We kept our opener simple, sharing a pomegranate salad ($7), which arrived as a mound of mild spinach leaves, sprinkled with juicy pomegranate bits, crisp and deliciously tart apple slices, and cranberries and toasted walnuts, and crowned with rings of sweet red onion. The mixture was lightly bathed in a house-made pomegranate vinaigrette. We made quick work of it.
The array of dinner choices was dizzying, with veal or chicken available in picatta, saltimbocca, and parmesan preparations; several kinds of fish dishes; and a couple of steaks. Another half-dozen concoctions were listed as the chef’s specialties. All meals are priced under $20, except for the steaks, which are only slightly north of that figure.
A member of our trio selected the veal Roberto ($19) as his entrée, intrigued by a boast that the marinara sauce comes from a “secret family recipe.” The veal was tender and juicy, and the homemade noodles, nestled in a mouth-watering marinara, subtly flavored with herbs and sweet chunks of fresh tomato, were also a hit. What he couldn’t finish, he had boxed for a future feast.
I took a chance on the chicken Marsala ($18), one of my favorites when dining out when it’s prepared well. That was definitely the case here. The meal was a fabulous interplay of flavor and texture, with tender chicken medallions, tasty mushrooms, and crisp broccoli florets, all blanketed in a rich brown Marsala sauce that had me spooning up every last drop. Lovely roasted potatoes and a scoop of squash, fragrant with nutmeg, accompanied the chicken.
My fish-eating guest went for the baked haddock ($16), which came as a sizeable square of moist and flaky fish topped with lemon-infused Tuscan crumbs. The haddock, with its accompanying roasted potatoes and squash, were rapidly polished off and thoroughly enjoyed by our diner.
While our meals were more than enough to satisfy the heartiest appetite, we decided to sample dessert offerings, selecting the tiramisu ($6) and a bread pudding ($6). The tiramisu was the better choice, featuring a large slice of the sweet cake, drizzled with chocolate sauce and paired with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream. The bread pudding was the only disappointment of the evening. While the flavor was good, the texture was a little too dense and chewy.
Service was top-notch for our foray. The pace at which the food arrived matched well with our ability to consume it, without too much rushing or waiting between courses.
Café Eleganza also offers a varied lunch menu, with a long list of sandwiches, a few burgers, and several of its evening entrées at lower prices. Salad, soups, and appetizers are also available at lunchtime.
The business, which Pembroke resident T. J. Pugliese has owned and operated for 25 years, includes the restaurant, a bar, take-out operation, and catering service.
The Pub, connected to Café Eleganza but in a separate room, offers plenty of seating at the bar and a nearby cluster of high-top tables. Strategically placed flat-screen TVs keep customers entertained, and the pub’s menu, offering sandwiches, burgers, and an array of pizzas, keeps them well fed.
The take-out portion of the business, called Pasta Eleganza, has a separate entry way and offers customers virtually anything available to the in-house diner, packaged as individual meals or in large portions fit for a sizable group.