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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Thrifty Foodie dines at Ghini’s French Caffe

    In times of economic hardship, travel plans are often the first thing to go on the chopping block. Brochures with glossy photographs of pristine beaches and magnificent city squares are set aside for another year.

    Instead, grab a menu to take a culinary voyage around the world. For anyone looking for a taste of France without worrying about the airfare, consider a trip to Ghini’s French Caffe, 1803 E. Prince Road.

    Ghini’s has been at the northwest corner of Prince Road and Campbell Avenue since 1992. Owner and head chef Coralie Satta-Williams (Ghini was her nickname from her grandfather) has created a restaurant with a menu and atmosphere that helps diners forget, however briefly, that they are sitting across from a Wendy’s in Tucson, Ariz.

    Breakfast is a lively time to visit, which means there can be a waitlist, especially on the weekends. Thankfully, Ghini’s recently began offering its breakfast menu through lunch service – a plus for late risers or anyone looking to avoid the morning crowd.

    The restaurant offers such traditional French fare as café au lait with a baguette or croissant, omelettes and stuffed crepes as well as American items such as bacon and eggs with toast.

    Then there is Ghini’s signature dish, Eggs Provencale ($7.55), which is the best choice for a spring breakfast. The eggs are cooked according to your preference, and served with toast or a baguette and slices of pan-seared tomatoes seasoned with thyme and garlic. Portions were generous enough for a healthy eater to be satisfied. There was a light hand to how the ingredients were treated and seasoned, which resulted in a full stomach without the heaviness.

    For lunch, try The Ghini ($8.25), a sandwich that was like a heartier Philly cheesesteak but without the cheese. It had an Italian sausage that was sweet rather than spicy. The delicious gravy from the sausage tasted even better after being absorbed into the interior of the French baguette. The sandwich also came with a side of fresh mesclun and a light herbes de Provence vinaigrette.

    Ghini’s began a Tuesday night aperitif hour last fall where diners can order appetizers that range from $4 to $9. But don’t expect to find chicken wings or potato skins on this menu.

    Instead, diners can order such appetizers as double cream brie with grapes ($6), French onion soup ($6) and Pate Maison ($8). Two delectable dishes from this menu were the Champignon duxelles with rotini pasta and the escargots a la Bourguignonne.

    The Champignon duxelles ($8) lent a slightly earthy flavor to the rich cream sauce that proved to be addictive. The rotini was softer than al dente, but it worked well with the sauce to create a sense of comfort.

    A classic French dish, the escargots a la Bourguignonne ($8) were wonderful. The snails were incredibly tender – they can be rubbery if not cooked well – and had a taste similar to duxelles. They were cooked in a butter sauce that had the strong aroma and surprisingly subtle flavor of roasted garlic. Artichoke hearts and Parmesan added layers of saltiness and nuttiness to give depth to the escargots.

    There was a crÇùme brulee ($5) with a potent vanilla flavor that struck the right note of sweetness. Unfortunately, the top crust was soggy in the middle so it was missing that distinctively satisfying crunch.

    Service was great overall. The lone exception was the aperitif hour when the servers would occasionally forget to provide enough silverware for the appetizers. Otherwise, they were knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive, and the food reached the table after a reasonable amount of time.

    For dessert or bread to take home, consider taking a few steps to La Baguette Bakery next door where you can find sweet creations from owner, and Coralie’s father, Norbert Alex Satta, who also creates Ghini’s desserts.

    Despite a few minor flaws, Ghini’s is a wonderful Tucson spot for anyone who’s looking for an affordable culinary getaway.

    Ghini’s French Caffe

    1803 E. Prince Rd.

    (520) 326-9095

    Hours:

    Tuesday – Saturday

    6:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.

    Sunday

    8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

    Aperitif Hour:

    Tuesday Nights

    5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

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