The Boston Phoenix
September 14 - 21, 2000

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Café Rustica

Thyme and tide

by Dorie Clark

on the cheap
  • Fusion Express, September 7
  • Pemberton Farms, August 31
  • Herrera's Mexican Grill, August 24
  • The Seasonal Table, August 17
  • Café Rustica, a sophisticated coffee shop on the Somerville side of Porter Square, almost didn't happen. "We debated -- should we open this or a dry cleaner's?" says owner Ahmed Derrouche, who also runs the laundromat next door. But Derrouche's Italian-born wife, Marisa, vetoed corporate synergy in favor of a slice of her homeland. The café stocks Perugina Italian chocolate bars ($2.29 each), Lavazza espresso ($1.75 for a double), and even $1 Yoga fruit nectars imported from Italy, served chilled in bottles the size of a shot glass.

    Open 13 hours a day, seven days a week, Rustica exudes a minimalism that doesn't take itself too seriously. The black wooden chairs and faux-marble-topped tables are leavened by a bright wooden counter and ledges along the walls bearing a hodgepodge of countryside tchotchkes: tea kettles, wooden baskets, olive-oil bottles, coffee tins.

    In the course of the day, the café shifts from providing dazed commuters with their morning muffins ($1.25 each), to making gourmet sandwiches on demand for area office workers (a specialty is their mozzarella, tomato, and basil for $4.75), to serving up afternoon snacks for students at the nearby Harvard Divinity School. The calorie-conscious have a choice of five salads (a large mixed-greens salad goes for $3.50); hedonists might prefer the chocolate cannoli for $2.25 apiece. Either way, if you get a little sloppy and spill something -- you know where to go.

    Café Rustica, located at 356 Beacon Street in Somerville, is open Monday through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call (617) 491-8300.

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