Fresh-baked bread is not all you can eat at Café des Artistes, but the provocative scent is enough to lure you through the door. Proprietor Michael Calvanese and his staff bake focaccia bread as well as ciabatta bread, every single day they are open.
Diners can be confident that when they eat at this restaurant they will be eating something fresh, well-spiced, and done to perfection under Michael’s watchful eye.
Food has been a significant part of his life since he was a child growing up in New York City. He was raised in an Italian household where food was always a priority.
“When we were having breakfast, we would talk about what we were going to have for dinner,” he said with a smile. “It’s all about food with Italians.”
The food markets in New York were so specialized that all the vendors paid strict attention to the quality of the food. Michael enjoyed tagging along with his mother when she shopped, learning the secrets of selecting ingredients for a perfect meal.
“I got my penchant for fresh food from my mom,” he said.
Michael never set foot in a chef school, but he possesses an innate cooking ability that was fostered by a mother who appreciated fresh food and who went to great lengths to insure freshness. Yes, there were the myriad of markets, but Michael will never forget the time that his mother went beyond market-fresh and stocked the family bathtub with eels that were to be served for dinner.
The interior of the restaurant is airy with a vibrant wall mural painted by local artist Brett Stokes. This whimsical rendition of famous artists is a sight to behold. The fine art displayed on the walls is ever-changing – it keeps things fresh – like the food.
Michael is pleased with the atmosphere, “The combination of food and art is so unique. It’s is a colorful place – like ‘Cirque du Soleil’. It’s a cheery place.”
Fresh and colorful – those terms can be applied to the ambiance as well as the food. With that combination one would expect high prices, but the menu is brimming with reasonably priced items.
Red peppers and tomatoes are in abundance right now and Michael is using them in his dreamy tomato soup. Simple, but flavorful, the only ingredients are tomatoes, red bell peppers, and an array of spices.
An exciting combination is the chicken salad sandwich with a Caesar salad on the side. The chopped chicken breast is mixed with finely-diced celery, a hint of tarragon, and a few spices. It is delicious served on a fresh croissant.
The Caesar salad is punctuated by croutons which are made from the crusts of homemade focaccia bread.
The salad is sprinkled with Romano cheese. But this is not just any Romano cheese. It is imported from Italy – by the block – then hand-grated. “I won’t buy grated cheese in a package because I don’t know how long it has been sitting there,” Michael said with conviction.
Homemade Caesar dressing tops this fresh salad marvel. (All of the dressings used in the café are made onsite.)
Michael is always thinking about how to pair his food with the art that is on exhibit in the Fallbrook Art Center. For example, when wildlife art was exhibited, he went to great lengths to serve wild game; and served “Wild Antelope Stew,” among other entrées.
Look for an upcoming Fallbrook Village Association Summer Nights event called “Farm to Table.”
“We will be in a tent on the street and it should be a lot of fun,” said Michael. He is creating a special ratatouille which will debut at this event, and then find its place on the eclectic Cafe´ des Artistes menu.
“It has been nice to be able to get to know the community and participate in events,” Michael commented.
Cafe´ des Artistes is located behind the Fallbrook Art Center at 103 South Main Ave in Fallbrook, Calif. For further information, visit www.cafedesartistes.us or call (760) 728-3350. (The café is able to accommodate up to 70 guests for dinner parties.)