Somerville’s best little slice of Europe is hidden fairly well; unless you live in the neighborhood, you’ve probably never noticed it. Tucked next to a laundromat where Oxford St. meets Beacon St., Café Rustica is a cozy spot for breakfast, lunch, or some quality time with a good book and a hot cappuccino. Even more hidden? Its tree-shaded patio out back, reminiscent of the surprise courtyards nestled within packed stretches of buildings in places like Brooklyn and Quebec City.
Long church benches, exposed brick, mini cafe tables, and chalkboard menus make up the quaint ambiance. The space is tiny but never feels uncomfortable, probably because everyone inside is in such a great mood.
My ideal Sunday afternoon: a pressed and grilled Rustica special – fresh mozzarella, tomato, and pesto on a baguette – with a bag of chips and a bottle of San Pellegrino Aranciata, enjoyed on the hidden patio, surrounded by willows, potted plants, and bird feeders. I’m a bit obsessed with tomato and mozzarella sandwiches, and after eating a lot of them around town, I wholeheartedly endorse this one as my favorite. Other lunch sandwich options cover the standard deli meat range: salami, turkey, roast beef, ham, prosciutto, and more, and you can customize to your heart’s content. The menu board suggests adding prosciutto to the Rustica special – go for it. The breakfast menu includes egg sandwiches, bagels, and variety of pastries, muffins, and croissants.
I can’t vouch for the hot beverages as I’m not a coffee drinker, but the selection of juices and Italian sodas is solid, and all beverages are more reasonably priced than most other cafes in the area. The coffee drinks are from Seattle’s Best and Lavazza.
No matter how you’re feeling when you walk in, Rustica will put a huge smile on your face. Good food, drinks, and ambiance aside, the service is phenomenal. The men behind the counter are the friendliest I’ve met at any cafe – genuinely friendly, not plastered-on-fake-smile friendly. They’ll remember you and your order after just a few visits. The vibe is mellow: you’re more likely to find people chatting quietly with friends over a cup of espresso or relaxing with a magazine rather than typing away endlessly on a laptop with headphones on. If you’re looking for that, go to the nearby Starbucks. For everything else, you want Rustica.
356 Beacon St
Somerville, MA 02143
Hours: Mon – Sun, 7am – 4pm
Rachel Leah Blumenthal is a Somerville-based writer, photographer, and musician. She writes about food on her blog, Fork it over, Boston!, and runs Boston Food Bloggers, a networking community. For more information, visit RachelBlumenthal.net.