And the Italian food critic is back, but not with a vengeance. Caffé Italia is a classic Davis joint with a great atmosphere, nestled next to I-80 and across the street from the beloved In-N-Out. If you haven’t been here yet, you are in for a good time.
My friends and I headed to Caffé Italia on a Thursday night during a not-too-busy time. Many families with children were around as well as a couple of people on dates. The atmosphere is casual and comforting enough to be enjoyable, boasts dim lighting and is perfect for groups or a relaxed first date.
The restaurant itself is decorated very kitsch-like: posters and signs with sayings such as “If you’re smoking in here you’d better be on fire” or “I only eat pizza on days that end in Y“. The venue is adorned with olive oil bottles, a very large blown-up wine bottle above the entrance, tomato cans, hanging garlic, plastic flowers and fake vines.
Most seating options are booths; the ceiling has wooden beams, and the decoration around the booth area feels very gazebo-like, as if one were eating outdoors.
Jazzy elevator-style music was playing when we arrived, though I could swear I heard the stereotypical “That’s Amore“ by Dean Martin playing once during my meal.
One of my favorite aspects of Caffé Italia, is that every table is covered in white paper. You can draw on every booth – crayons are provided, no children’s menu required. I don’t know about anyone else’s kindergarten days, but I loved coloring! I could color all day, everyday.
This is also a great strategy for customers to forget that they are hungry and waiting for their food – they are too busy doodling hearts and flowers.
I ordered a strawberry Italian soda and the Pasta Arrabiata. This Italian dish is known to consist of a very spicy red sauce usually served over penne pasta.
Arrabiata means angry, hence why the sauce is so spicy, it’s mad! Caffé Italia’s version contains spicy garlic, tomato, prosciutto, with a scoop of ricotta, but it was not angry at all. I was slightly disappointed since I was looking for something spicy, and didn’t taste any hot angry-ness in the dish. In fact, I would almost call the sauce sweet. It was still good though and it came in a satisfying portion that I was able to finish.
The pasta itself was not penne but rigatoni and was cooked al dente – firm but not too hard and not mushy. Each table is also served four slices of garlic bread, oozing with butter. I’m not a big fan of a lot of garlic, but this bread was great for dipping into pasta sauce.
There are a wide range of options on the menu, including pizza, sandwiches and main courses such as New York style-steak.
My friend had the half-order of half ravioli half spaghetti, which I tasted and liked. The sauce, again, is reminiscent of Prego pasta sauce – which I am not a fan of. The hearty tomato taste is overtaken by sweetness.
The restaurant’s famous Chocolate Lasagna dessert is perfect for chocolate lovers, but you must save room for it.
My pasta dish was $10.99. Plus drink and tip, my total came close to $20, though for all the food, was well worth it.
And finally, I would like to mention that the name “Caffé Italia” is incorrect. Caffè with the accent over the e going toward the left, in Italian means coffee. They have the accent going toward the right. If they did have it right, the name would be Italy Coffee. I think they were going for Italy Café, but that has only one f. Or you could even use the word caffè (though in Italian the word bar is used to describe café-like places), but at least have the correct accent. I hope I just made my Italian professors proud.
ANGELA RUGGIERO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.