Caffé Europa is back — in a big way. A fixture on Las Olas Boulevard for 18 years, the casual café was forced to close in 2008 because of a planned expansion of The Riverside Hotel. The Fort Lauderdale restaurant reopened in August, just two blocks east of the original location, but like many of its longtime customers, the place has grown up. Tony Cupelli, originally from Calabria in southern Italy, remains at the helm with his daughter Lisa Checo and son Anthony. And despite its chic decor, you’ll find the café’s typical menu of pizza, pasta, paninis, a few entrees and a few daily specials — good, solid Italian fare complemented by a moderately priced wine list of about 70 choices.
Ambience: The new Caffé (the owner switched to the Italian spelling) Europa is upscale, sleek and sexy with black granite wine bar, partially open kitchen and sophisticated sidewalk seating under spinning fans. Caffé Europa still shows off its colorful gelato and tempting pastries, but in more attractive display cases. Kitschy art work has been replaced by large paintings, movie posters and vintage photos.
- An antipasti of imported hand-sliced prosciutto, sopressata (a dry cured salami), a mix of olives, fresh mozzarella and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Delightfully crispy, lightly floured fried calamari, with a few zucchini strips served with a zesty marinara dip or a squeeze of lemon
- Roasted beet salad, tossed in vinaigrette and set atop arugula with a scattering of gorgonzola and pine nuts
- Two plump meatballs of beef and veal, served with ricotta and Italian parsley
- Big-enough-to-share 12-inch pizzas cooked on a stone with a thin snap-crisp crunch
- The specialty Las Olas Pizza with grilled chicken, spinach, mushrooms, fresh plum tomatoes and mozzarella
- Shrimp with rigatoni
- Pan-seared codfish Livornese with briny capers, bracing olives, tasty tomatoes and a light sauce with a splash of white wine
- 20 scrumptious-looking pastries, including a rich chocolate pyramid, imported cheesecakes and tiramisu
- Eight flavors of rich, creamy gelato — not house-made but rich and creamy. We like the coconut and chocolate chip
What Didn’t Work
- Orecchiette with Italian sausage on the bland side
- Efficient but indifferent servers