Café Italia breaks the mold! It provides edible food at reasonable prices at a prime tourist destination. A welcome breakthrough inspired by a young Italian couple that just wanted to do something different. The cuisine is as much local Indonesian as Italian but that is expected for such a site.
The restaurant can be difficult to locate as it is behind the shops that face the general car park. There is one small shop that bears the sign and you can walk through it to the large wantilan behind that is Café Italia. For those who know the area you can avoid the car park completely driving below and around it, finishing with street parking next to the restaurant.
Any tourist site must have those all day, every day, snacks. Hamburgers, Onion Rings, Bruschetta, Hot Dogs [with chicken sausage], plates of French Fries or American Wedges and that traditional Club Sandwich. Then there is the much maligned English standard of Fish & Chips, but here presented with both style and taste. At Café Italia this simple dish is done very well, juicy fish fillets wrapped in a very crunchy batter and served with hand-cut chips [call them French Fries if you must], a tub of tartare on the side.
The salad can be a Chicken Caesar [breast, romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, egg and bacon or a Nicoise [tuna, tomato, green beans, hard boiled eggs, olives, anchovies and vinaigrette] and for vegetarians there is a Greek [tomato, cucumber, onion, capsicum, olives and feta]. Also for the veggies a Tofu Burger with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and cheese added to the fried tofu.
Pasta is Italian and so are the owners so you assume, correctly, that it will be the real thing. The Spaghetti can be Carbonara, Aglio & Olio [garlic, chilli and olive oil] or Arrabbiata [a spicy sauce made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil]. All the other pasta is made [by ?la zia?, the aunt] on the premises, how refreshingly different and for such a small place. and it shows their excellent attention to detail! Gnocchi with that traditional basil pesto sauce [pictured], the perfect Tagliatelle combined with a beef ragu [Bolognese] and a very rich tomato base and Lasagne, layered pasta sheets with Bolognese sauce and béchamel. Pappardelle is also sometimes available.
From the BBQ or the pan come a range of fresh seafood and meats [beef fillet, chicken breast], all prepared the Italian way. Seafood stock varies according to supply but can include Tuna, Snapper, Prawns and King Prawns. The Red Snapper is cooked in butter and the Grilled King Prawns are served with their special homemade satay sauce.
Heading the Indonesian menu are some of the best Chicken Satays I have had. The meat is cut in large chunks, it is tender and not overcooked [as is far too often the case in Bali]. The sauce is totally different to the usual peanut curry sauce but rather an unusual blend of just peanut sauce, garlic and kecap manis, quite sweet but not overly so, very tasty! Other dishes include the predictable Nasi and Mie Gorengs but done many different ways; Vegetarian, Seafood or Chicken.
For dessert you can go Italian with Ciambella, a homemade cake with chocolate and custard cream, and Crostata, also a homemade cake but with strawberry jam and then there is that forever famous Tiramisu.
Many more dishes are on the daily blackboards so always check them when perusing the menu as fresh ingredients are a passion here and offerings change as does the availability. At Café Italia they get all of the little things right including their Italian coffees [Segafredo Zanetti] served as espresso, cappuccino, latte, shakerato [the new rage in Italy, iced espresso coffee, shaken as in a cocktail, served frothy] and the new one so popular now in Bali, the Affogato [a serve of vanilla or chocolate ice cream, an espresso poured over the top].
Café Italia must be the first eating house at a popular Bali tourist site that can be recommended for both its quality of food and reasonable price. It is reason enough to visit Tanah Lot.