There is something about walking into the Fat Tuscan Café that makes your body go, "aaahhh . . ." It's like stepping into Mama Michele's home for a good lunch, conversation and a wonderful respite from the outside world. It was the White Apron Catering Queen's birthday day lunch and she was pleased about making the FTC our lunch spot. I quickly made it clear that I always order the Fromage Au Trois grilled cheese sandwich (please see below.) Jules chose the Prosciutto Sandwich that includes Prosciutto, pears, brie and arugula lightly dressed with house vinaigrette on ciabatta bread. Fat Tuscan's owner Michelle Rotinna stopped by our table to wish Jules a happy birthday and was proud of the fact that she is very particular about her prosciutto. "I search out and buy only the best prosciutto because good ham is important to this sandwich," Michele said. Jules and I shared our sandwiches so we could have our own Fat Tuscan Italian sandwich taste test. The Prosciutto Sandwich was spectacular with so many textures and flavors. The GLOB Master isn't big on sweet items in his savory lunch entrees, Today there were slices of pear in the sandwich that opened my eyes to a startling flavor surprise. The brie was a nice addition of mellow, chewy flavor tucked between the yummy prosciutto, pears and vinaigrette. it was fun enjoying the different textures of the ciabatta roll, and panini bread. The Prosciutto Sandwich was very good, and Michele reminded me that the PS is a popular Fat Tuscan lunch choices. For all the reasons mentioned below I still think the Fromage Au Trois is one of the better grilled cheese sandwiches in Gainesville. OMG! This sandwich, the Fat Tuscan Café is a wonderful lunch stop! I love menu boards, they would make a great subject for a photographical essay.
- GLOB Master
FT makes for a nice lunchtime European diversion
By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Correspondent
Editor's Note: The Gainesville Lunch Out Blog is suggesting it's favorite lunch spots for a cozy, intimate, loving lunch hour.
On the northern edge of downtown on 8th Avenue sits a wood frame house painted a beautiful deep orange-yellow color. It has stained glass windows and a brick courtyard with a gurgling fountain and just the right amount of sun and shade. This is the place for a lunch that will make you feel as if you have truly escaped from the stresses of the American work place to an authentic European café. Not only that, the food is very good. Especially the dessert, but that comes last!
I have been to The Fat Tuscan several times now and the food has been consistently good. In my book, that is the highest compliment I can pay a restaurant. There are salads, sandwiches, soups and the last time I was there, quiche was a special item. Even though I expect the food at the FT to be good, I was surprised by just how good the quiche was – it had the consistency of flan and a rich flavor was diffused throughout the quiche. Maybe that had something to do with the addition of brie, a French cheese favorite of mine.
Their salads add just a few more ingredients than the usual The Eggplant Caprese salad, on the other hand, is very simple, but all the better for that. The same approach applies to the sandwiches – for instance the Turkey Baguette includes cucumbers as well as avocado and fontina cheese and the Ham and Cheese Panini includes roast apple-mustard and arugula.
FT has a unique approach to soup: 3 choices – Large Bowl, Small Bowl, or Cup. I LOVE soup but so far have not had theirs. That will be high on my list when I next lunch there, and I'll be sure to let you know how that goes via an additional comment below.
And the best thing of all is the Chocolate Panini for dessert, a heated and pressed concoction that combines chocolate hazelnut spread with marscapone cheese. The powdered sugar sprinkled on top seems to actually add something as well. When you have had a REALLY bad morning – just go there and have this sweet panini for lunch. It will warm your heart.
Eating inside the restaurant is as nice as eating outside – the décor is warm and homey with beautiful wood and stained glass and, since this is an old restored house, there are actual dining rooms.
The prices are comparable to similar restaurants (Wine and Cheese Gallery and The Paramount). The salads range from $3.75 for a small house salad to 12.75 for a Salad Nicoise that includes seared tuna and imported Nicoise olives (with pits, the menu notes). The sandwiches range from $7.50 for the Grilled Vegetable, which includes gruyere cheese, to $9.75 for Antipasto Sandwich on Ciabatta or for Prosciutto Sandwich, which includes pears, brie, and arugula.
The Fat Tuscan seems to have it all -- food well made with special ingredients in a setting that is relaxing, warm, and visually pleasing.
The Pluses and Minuses of the Fat Tuscan Cafe.
The + Indicators: Consistent food and a parking lot!
The - Indicators: Servings tend to be smallish. Actually that's a plus -- I have left satisfied but not stuffed! Prices are little high but probably comparable to similar restaurants.
Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about the Fat Tuscan Cafe. Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments. - THANKS!
I was meeting Gainesville's PRO iNK's Director of Operations and new friend, Elayana Rexrode, for lunch and this was Ms. Rexrode's first visit to the Fat Tuscan Café. I was happy to find the FT's signature lunch item, the Fromage a Trois Panini, on their menu and thought this would be a great lunch for this day and also next time I was looking for a Meatless Monday lunch. Elayna was quick to point out she was a salad-for-lunch GLOBer and selected the FT's Tropical Salad. Elayna described the salad: "The crisp greens, chilled shrimp and abundance of feta cheese crumbles were perfectly fresh and delightful. The dressing was light, but full of flavor that did not overpower the salad ingredients. The Fat Tuscan atmosphere was very conducive to a nice conversation with the Glob Master -- you didn't have to shout to hear each other." My Formage a Troi – I love to hear myself say that – was an extraordinary grilled cheese sandwich of gruyere, fontina, brie, roasted tomato, and sautéed shallots on grilled panini bread and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Not to sound like the UF Gators Mick Huber but, Oh my. The cheese blended to a rich, melted, flavorful concoction of gooeyness shrouding grilled, juicy tomatoes and sautéed shallots. The piece de resistance to my French café lunch masterpiece was the balsamic reduction that added a distinct, subtle, flair of sweetness with every toasted bite. Uh huh! Bon ami mademoiselle! Fat Tuscan owner Michelle Rotinna stopped at our table to say hello and share some great stories about her month long vacation to the Czech Republic. Michelle said the Fromage a Trois Panini as a Meatless Monday wasn't a good idea since the Fat Tuscan is closed on Mondays . . .
- GLOB Master
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Bo Zaza Wednesday, 13 February 2013 14:50 Comment Link
All this talk of Valentine lunch spots, but not a single mention of a sushi place. C'mon Globster! Most ladies love sushi.
Also, Gainesville is home to one of the nation's better chocolatiers: Thornebrook Chocolates in the Thornebrook Village. Oddly, I discovered them in a chocolate/coffee shop in Savannah, GA, a few years ago when I read the label on a couple delicious pieces I picked up there.