Review: L'Artisan Café & Bakery

More like a bistro than a bakery
By BILL RODRIGUEZ  |  May 24, 2011

Enough already. I got tired of a good foodie friend of mine badgering me about this bakery and gourmet food place he was in love with and wanted me to review. So I finally went along recently, with humoring him in mind rather than expecting to take out a pad and pen. Imagine my surprise.

I don't know if they have the best croissants in town, as he insists. I was too distracted by all the other great food I sampled to get around to them.

L'Artisan Café & Bakery | 401.331.4444 | 9 Wayaland Sq, Providence | Daily, 6 Am-9 Pm | Major Credit Cards | Beer + Wine | Sidewalk-Level Accessible
L'artisan Café & Bakery looks, feels, and tastes more like a European bistro than a bakery. In warm weather, the patio tables look inviting. There are soft leather armchairs and reading material at the entrance to dissuade you from just rushing out with one of those croissants and a cuppa joe. Soft jazz in the background at low volume. For those persuaded to leisurely sip a beer or glass of wine, there are just a few choices of each but they are smartly selected, from Newport Storm and Kronenbourg 1664 to Smoking Loon Pinot Noir, and an interesting cab I liked, from the obscure Project Paso.

Jaime D'Oliveira, who has Al Forno, Mills Tavern, and Capital Grille among his chef and exec chef experiences, will be in charge when they start preparing dinners in a month or so, in case you were wondering about the place's credentials. L'artisan was established in Wayland Square last August by Ghassan Daou, who used to have an establishment "with the same concept," as he explained, in Montreal. He has been in the gourmet market business for more than 20 years.

There are some interesting Lebanese touches here, given Daou's background. Perhaps the most interesting one is a large flatbread, densely sprinkled with za'atar, composed of ground sumac and sesame seeds as well as thyme and oregano. Tasty, and only $1.99. Their baba ganoush, a mashed eggplant dip, is wonderfully smoky, and the stuffed grape leaves have plenty of olive oil and lemon tang.

The non-bakery items here are in cold cases, but if you're eating there they can be heated up, if appropriate. Such items include chicken marsala, lasagna, and chicken Parmesan with pasta. The prices range between $4.49 and $5.99, and their kitchen-packaged salads I took note of — garbanzos tahini, carrot and walnut, spicy Thai chicken salad — were $3.49 to $5.99. Wraps are $4.99. (Moist falafel — yay!)

Their panini are long, like grinders, and on nicely chewy bread that's not at all bland. They are $5.99 by themselves and $8.50 with soup or salad. The wraps are correspondingly $4.99 and $7.50. The veggie panino I shared was delicious, with plenty of mozzarella, caramelized onions, and roasted red pepper, as well as eggplant. The cold penne on the plate, thinly coated with pesto, was surpris-ingly robust from the basil. (If you don't order soup or salad with your sandwich, they still place a generous sample on your plate.) Another fitting accompaniment we had was mozzarella balls and sliced grape tomatoes, the latter of which my friend found unusually tasty for that variety.

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