Lots of places have tried to pass themselves off as the definitive Italian cafe, but for our money no one can beat Lorenzo's Tavalo Caldo on Mississippi Ave. for casual Italian food. And this is the perfect time of year to stop in for lunch or dinner, since they throw open the big garage door so the tables and people spill out onto the sidewalk. We've been there for two very nice lunches lately, and for value and quality we can't recommend it highly enough.
Walk straight through the dining room to the back counter and take a look at the board that lists all the day's offerings, pick out a few and peruse the wine that sits on top of the counter. You might also think about taking home some of their meats, cheeses and desserts that sit inside. But for now, give your order to the person behind the counter, grab a bottle of water and your glasses and silverware from the sideboard and pick a table. One of the wait staff will bring your wine (they have a lovely Chianti Classico for just a few pennies) and you can take in the ambiance of the avenue as you sip and chat.
Both times I ordered the special, an amazing portobello mushroom raviolo, a large strip of homemade pasta folded around a whole portobello mushroom laid on top of a rich cream sauce and topped with a fresh tomato sauce, parsley and parmesan. With their wonderful focaccia to sop up any remaining sauce, it made a delicious and not-too-filling midday repast.
Details: Lorenzo's Tavolo Caldo, 3807 N. Mississippi Ave; Phone 503.284.6200.