The food and beverages at MochaLisa’s Caffe are good but what first strikes you is the warm environment.
Owners Michael Serianni and Jeff Lescinski have created a comfortable and attractive haven that attracts an eclectic patronage.
On a recent visit for lunch, I found an assortment of people, young and old, enjoying coffee and salads, sandwiches and pastries, nestled in overstuffed chairs and chatting with their tablemates or taking advantage of the wireless Internet availability to use their laptops. As is fashionable these days, the place specializes in a variety of espresso drinks, which are overseen by Serianni, who is a certified barista.
The service was friendly and efficient. You order at the counter and they bring your food to your table when it’s ready or call out and you come pick it up. While you’re waiting to order, you can admire the Italian pastries on display in a glass-fronted showcase.
The cafe’s motif is Italian, with warm earth tones and an interesting mural of the Tuscany countryside. A TV mounted on the wall was set to the Food Channel, with the sound muted, and Rachael Ray was doing something with meat.
We tried two of the panini sandwiches — a roast beef for me and a grilled chicken version to bring to a pal.
The roast beef sandwich ($6.95) consisted of a generous amount of rare beef, with brie and fresh spinach and dressed with tomatoes. It is served on a grilled ciabatta bread brushed with olive oil. It was a nice melding of complementary flavors and textures and I enjoyed it, along with the crispy chips and dill pickle spear that accompanied it. I tried a drink from the cooler that sounded better than it was, a passion fruit-infused lemonade with real hunks of lemon visible in the bottle. It was a bit sweet for my taste.
The grilled chicken panini (also $6.95) also was served on grilled ciabatta bread brushed with olive oil. Besides chicken, the sandwich contained feta, fresh spinach and a kalamata olive spread. My friend said it was quite tasty and she shared it with family members who also enthused about it. It was similarly accompanied by a dill spear and potato chips.
I brought along a cup of the cafe’s specialty coffees, a MochaLisa Latte ($3.10 for a “coppetta,” which is a 12-ounce cup). The menu describes it as espresso with steamed milk, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The taste is of rich hot chocolate with some octane, and it was drunk by another friend who pronounced it good.
With tax and tip, lunch and drinks for two came to a reasonable $22.38.
MochaLisa’s offers a wide variety of coffee drinks — espresso, lattes and cappuccinos and specialty roasted coffees — along with premium whole-leaf teas and chais, iced beverages including Italian sodas (someone ordered a raspberry version while I was there and was informed that it is created with flavored syrup and sparkling soda). You can also get a frappe (latte cooler), smoothie or order a specialty beer or wine.
They also serve salads, including a garden version featuring mesclun greens, romaine hearts and other vegetables ($5.95), with a variety of dressings including a white zinfandel. You can also order a wrap for $6.95 — a grilled chicken version, a sun-dried tomato and turkey or the Tuscan, a vegetarian choice described as a tortilla shell filled with a fresh and light garden mixture of romaine, feta, tomato and red onion with drizzled sun-dried tomato dressing.
The breakfast fare is topped by a hearty panini sandwich, ciabatta bread brushed lightly with butter and stuffed with two eggs, bacon and cheese, tomatoes and basil and grilled in the panini press ($5.50). There are also bagel sandwiches and you can get a bowl of hot oatmeal ($2.25).
MochaLisa’s Caffe is not part of a chain, but a locally owned and independent operation, which to me is another good reason to recommend the place.
I’m always intrigued by the arrival of new words in our everyday lexicon. Take “barista,” for example. If you heard someone referred to as a barista only a few years ago, wouldn’t you think he was being dissed in Italian? Yet, today everybody knows a barista is a trained coffee — or more specifically espresso — brewer, who knows all about extracting flavors, steaming milk, creating lattes and cappuccinos and all sorts of specialty coffees. Kind of makes you pine for a good old cup of joe, doesn’t it?