I felt kind of the same way while I was lazily walking downtown Milano towards California Bakery, where my best friend and I were headed for brunch. And it wasn't just a brunch. It was my first "Made in Italy" brunch. I wanted brunch to be good, but I would lie if I said that I wasn't a little apprehensive. Would brunch live up to my very American expectations? Would it be worth the trip and the price tag? I'm happy to say that the answer to both questions is yes. Brunch at California Bakery is enjoyable, tasty and definitely worth a trip downtown.
Back to the food, though. California Bakery offers menu selections that are the closest you''ll ever get to a true American brunch in Milano, so if you are looking for that all-American experience, this is the place for you. I know because I've looked at more than 20 menus around town and, ladies and gentlemen, I cringed. A lot. What's so difficult about brunch, one might ask? It's a good question. The answer is nothing, if restaurants owners knew what brunch is. Most of them don't and it shows. What they think brunch is, is an aperitivo buffet you serve at noon instead of during cocktail hour.
But that's not the case at California Bakery. No Sir. They know what brunch is and, for the most part, they stay true to American tradition and recipes. Now this will make many of you smile, but tell me that someone in Italy has bagels on their menu and you can bet I'll be practically running to give the place a try. What can I say? Bagels are delicious. Italian love bagels. And yet, they are not readily available, which of course makes them even more delicious in our minds. Because we can't get them.
So as soon as I saw that they had something called the University Plate (about 15 Euros, depending on what bagel or sandwich you choose), a big smile spread on my face. Although the offerings on the menu were plentiful I knew what I was going to have, and it had something to do with bagels and smoked salmon. Predictable? Usually I'm not like that at all, but after ten long months of bagel abstinence I was not going to turn down my favorite breakfast dish.
Because, let's face it, there's a lot to choose from at California Bakery. There's the Healthy Plate, featuring yogurt, granola and a homemade muffin; there's the Chelsea Plate, showcasing a generous slice of the quiche of the day served with mixed greens; and of course there's the more classic East Side Plate —scrambled eggs with bacon, hash browns and either a bagel or multigrain bread. Really, it all comes down to, there's something for everyone at California Bakery, including a Kosher Plate for those who need it. All brunch dishes come with complimentary sides —potatoes either roasted or fried and, a little oddly spinach— a basket of just-out-of-the-oven mixed breads with aromatic butters, a mug of American style coffee and a one liter pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Food quality is above average, especially when you look at other restaurants in town that have the nerve to call themselves American. Take it from someone who has lived and eaten enthusiastically in the Unites States for ten years: skip the others and go directly to California Bakery. The Club sandwich will make a big grin spread on your face, and so will the BLAT sandwich —a classic BLT with the addition of avocado.
My bagel was huge. Huge and delicious, stuffed with cream cheese, capers, slices of tomatoes and, of course, smoked salmon. Only one thing would have made it better: not having sesame seeds on it. I'm not a big sesame seed fan, especially when it comes to my bagel, and it would have been nice to know ahead of time —on the menu perhaps?— that tat's the way the bagel was going to be. The pancakes my friend ordered were fluffy and delicious and her eggs over easy were cooked just to perfection, as were the potatoes.
My only complain with California Bakery? The service. Don't go there in a rush because, although there's more than 10 waiters and waitresses working at every given time, they are slow, both to take orders and to deliver them . It's a small price to pay but trust me, if you really want a true American-style brunch head down to California Bakery this weekend. For an hour or so you will feel as if you are sitting somewhere along the Golden State.