Vegetarian Café Opens in Costa Mesa

Avanti Café
259 E. 17th Street, Costa Mesa



Avanti means “forward” in Italian. Avanti Natural is a culinary philosophy that integrates the best of  traditional European and Asian healthful eating with the latest nutritional information for optimum health).

I just love finding new cafes — especially when they deliver unique and delightful entrée items along with dedication to quality and freshness.  Such is the case with Avanti Café, which opened in early May.  

Co-owner and Executive Chef, Mark Cleveland, was there to greet us (Darby Davis, publisher of Awareness Magazine and me)  and explain the Daily Deli Selections featured prominently in the deli case. Fresh, healthful, organic, delightfully creative and appetizing describe the fare at this Café.

We marveled at the many entres such as: Organic Pumpkin Soufflé with red  quinoa and amaranth, ricotta, parmesan and toasted pumpkin seeds; Stacked Shiitake Mushrooms with roasted tomato rice, smoked tomato and arugula sauce, organic pumpkin, Spanish tarragon and habanero oil; Avocado Risotto Stuffed Peppers served with toasted ciabatta  bread and fresh organic tomato; Italian Brown Rice and Cheese Balls served with ricotta, parmesan, and organic red sauce. Avanti has more vegan and vegetarian items than I have ever seen in one restaurant, the Indian Dal and Tempe/Tofu Bolognese being big vegan hits. All of these entrées and many others were reasonably priced at $5 each.

While we contemplated which delicacy to order, we wandered around the small but chic-styled café and noticed a freezer case in the corner with gourmet specialty soups, baked goods, sorbets and even freshly-made natural dog food, packed and ready for carry out. Chef Mark explained that one of his goals, along with partner and Executive Pastry Chef, Tanya Fuqua, is to create meals that are both healthy and delicious, and serve customers who are in a hurry or want to eat in.

The Café also offers artisan cheeses, an international selection of fine wines and micro-brewed beers, as well as fresh baked breads, homemade puff pastry; granola and hand-mixed spices and teas. Emphasis is on organic produce and totally healthful eating that is delicious, energizing and delightfully unique.

Chef Mark informed us that the Café features locally-grown produce from South Coast Farms in San Juan Capistrano. I think this makes a remarkable difference in taste, quality and health that must be noticed and appreciated. I was also delighted by the Asian-inspired tableware, which the chefs made themselves.  

Darby recommends the Broccoli Linguini with garlic and cream, as well Avocado Risotto Stuffed Peppers, which were rich and delicious. I thought the Ambrosia Melon Thai Curry with Garbanzos and Brown Rice was divine, and a blend of great flavors really complemented each other. Chef Mark brought me a sample from the freezer of delectable Tomato Granita, made in sorbet-style out-of-the-garden tomatoes — exquisite!  

Although we were stuffed, we couldn’t pass up the tantalizing desserts.  I had the uniquely flavorful Green Tea cake and  Darby enjoyed the Spice Cream cake, both highly recommended.

The Café hours are: Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Happy Hour is Monday through Saturday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. when a $3 Tapas plate is offered with the purchase of a glass/bottle of wine/beer or an espresso coffee drink, a great way to sample the fare.

Avanti Café is an impressive eatery under supervision of these two young chefs, Mark Cleveland and Tanya Fuqua, whose passion for their mission is evident. Everything about Avanti Café is creative and appealing, making it a “Must Go” destination for all foodies, vegans, vegetarians, and anyone who wants to eat tasty, delicious, natural and healthy food.

Reviewed by Kathy DeSantis

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