As the economy continues to create partnerships like an ex-real estate broker (Hector Pena) and a struggling high-end chef (Cesar Casas of Ambria), the line between fine-plate bistro and quick-service café is no more. Much like its neighbor, Treat, Cafe Bella doesn't shy from long prep times and specialty ingredients. Rather, it prefers to simmer a rib eye steak sandwich in a peppery, wine Madeira sauce that takes half a day to make, and side it with some primavera pasta for under $7.
The way of decor, yeah, you can chalk much of it up to the Logan Square zip code, but speckled in leather couches and an art gallery's worth of tapestries and pastels, there is not a cent of overhead on the rest of the menu. Wi-Fi is free. BYOB is encouraged. Even the casual coffee drinker gets treated with a touch of class, with mod, wide-lipped saucers and free refills (three sizes, all under $2).
Eventually Pena wants to showcase more of Casas' large plate creativity, with a soon-to-be dinner menu. But for now, Latin, French and Italian inspirations express themselves in a few decadent sandwiches and wraps, grilled ceviches, bruschetta and mango fused guacamole, that are perfect for the budget cocktail set, while some made-to-order desserts like poached pears and double chocolate mousse cakes bring it home.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul