Judging from the wistful gleams in my colleagues’ eyes when I tell them I went to lunch at Caffe Notrellis, this little lunch counter is much-loved around the Tribune newsroom, despite being a little more expensive than we poor reporters prefer to pay for lunch.
The Irwindale cafe has a surprising amount of charm for being in an office park. Petite cafe tables, cheery yellow walls and pink bougainvillea over the front patio help the lunchtime business crowd forget their mundane surroundings. The food is good, but still feels overpriced at nearly $7 for a sandwich.
The ingredients in the cafe’s paninis, pastas and salads hint at either appreciation of foodie ingredients or perhaps just copy-cat pretension: blue cheese and brie, curried chicken salad, jasmine rice, peanut sauce. Perhaps that’s why the Basil Pesto Pasta With Chicken comes to about $9, with tax.
Still, as someone who’s picky about pesto, I have to hand it to Caffe Notrellis, with their inexplicable two Fs in cafe: that pesto is nummy. Good and garlicky, and without a heavy olive oil taste. The regularly-sized cubes of chicken looked oddly pre-formed, but tasted just fine. And I can’t complain about the portion size: there were definitely leftovers.
The Chicken Salad Croissant, $6.75, was also tasty, if not memorable. The green salad that came with it had a zesty dressing, but the meager sprinkling of vegetables was disappointing. A large side of garlic fries, $2.25, were a big hit when I brought them back to the office. The garlic is powerful and smells delicious, and the shoestring fries hold their own. It was a good thing there was plenty to share.
There are treats such as brownies and cookies in a display case, coffee on the counter and a soda fountain in the corner. One of the 20 or so cafe tables is thoughtfully dedicated to copies of the day’s papers both the L.A. Times and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune. Service after ordering your food at the counter can be surprisingly slow, but despite that and the price, I do hanker after the food.
4981 Irwindale Ave
Baldwin Park, CA 91706 (so says Google Maps, though it’s really in Irwindale)
Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.