Archived Story

European food, atmosphere at new café

Published 12:16pm Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fresh lemon mousse with "minute" zest and blueberries jam. Photo submitted by Laura Valentini

By JESSICA SIEFF
jessica@offthewater.com

Art meets culinary arts at the Box Factory in St. Joseph with the recent opening of the Culin’Arte Caffe.

Owner Laura Valentini opened the cafe just about six weeks ago and with a strong focus on the details, she hopes to create a place where customers will delight in dining.

Authentically European (Valentini herself is from Brussels and moved to the area six years ago), the menu boasts handmade brioches and breakfast quiche. Lunches include gourmet sandwiches. Valentini said she makes everything from scratch.

“The motto is as much as we can offer – fresh produce daily and when there’s no more, there’s no more,” she said.

Adding to the cafe’s flavors are  roast beef on a Swiss baguette with buttery herb sauce and saute of potatoes, a spinach, carrot and onion saute with a goat cheese warm tart, brioche tiramisu and a panzanella with tuna salad.

Valentini said the atmosphere at the Box Factory is as integral to her cafe as the food.

“What’s really nice is it’s in a beautiful natural setting,” she said. “It’s almost like a hub – a meeting point, a Parisian meeting point.

“We have tables with white tablecloths,” she said. “Fresh flowers and European music on in the background. If you just want to come in to have a cup of coffee, you can do it.”

Valentini said the cafe is designed to relate to anyone from girlfriends catching up over lunch to the international male or female, sportsmen or the lounge-by-the-lake type.

The space also offers plenty of access, with free wi-fi, ample parking and a bike rack.

Valentini moved to the St. Joseph area six years ago from her native Brussels and said she’d never planned on opening up a restaurant.

“Actually I didn’t plan at all to open a cafe,” she said.

European-certified in the culinary arts, Valentini received numerous phone calls when the space had opened up at the Box Factory. A restaurant can bring with it long hours, which is why Valentini liked the idea of a breakfast and lunch cafe, incorporating culture and the cuisine with rich, carefully crafted dishes and a comfortable atmosphere.

“I think it’s not such a bad concept,” she said. “We’re doing good, not bad at all.

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