WORCESTER – Chef Enton Mehillaj and his wife Oriola Koci are the king and queen of the brunch scene in Worcester. A few years back, the couple opened their first restaurant, Livia’s Dish, named after their youngest daughter. Now, their latest and greatest brunch sensation is Altea’s Eatery, named after their older daughter.
“Worcester is known for its diners. So we decided to change that quite a bit and bring in a breakfast and lunch that took breakfast into a different level,” Oriola explained.
The concept at Altea’s is unique, serving a Parisian-inspired brunch seven days a week.
“You can come in in the morning and get a soup or macaroni and cheese. Or come in a 2:00 in the afternoon and get an omelet made to perfection. You mix that up with a Bloody Mary or Mimosa and you’ve got the perfect meal,” Oriola said.
There are crepes of course, but Altea’s also offers crispy Belgian waffles topped with Bananas Foster; sugar spiced Beignets with strawberry compote; fluffy, oven-baked frittatas; a brunch burger topped with bacon and an over easy egg; and roasted chicken mac and cheese.
There are traditional French bistro favorites, from the Croque Monsieur featuring black forest ham and gruyere, to the substantial Steak Frites boasting a grilled flat iron, a pile of hand-cut fries, and roasted shallot butter.
Even something as simple as an omelet gets an inordinate amount of attention, but the results speak for themselves.
“Everybody has had an omelet, but have you ever had an omelet with short ribs?” Oriola asked. “So we cook our short ribs for a long time, and the meat falls off the bone. You put it in an omelet. It’s cooked to perfection. It’s completely blonde with no browns around it, and you cut with a fork and it just explodes with flavors.”
If you would rather go for a brunch time benedict, Altea’s signature recipe is like nothing else in the city.
“Most other places, they just do a normal English muffin and Canadian bacon. We have a perfectly homemade fresh brioche. We do a black forest ham and our Hollandaise sauce is to die for,” Enton said.
“Once you cut through with the fork on a perfectly poached egg, the yolk just spreads out and turns into the sauce that’s mixed with the Hollandaise,” Oriola added.
The crepes are made with a top-secret French recipe that is slightly sweet, with a little bit of citrus. There is a savory ham and cheese crepe drizzled with chipotle aioli, and the ultra-popular sweet crepe folded with fresh fruit and smothered in Nutella.
“Nutella crepes are Altea’s favorite,” Oriola said of her daughter. “If she was in the restaurant, she would always order this. It’s a mix of fresh fruit, strawberries and bananas, on a folded crepe topped with Nutella. And anything with Nutella on top, it’s going to taste good.”
For something even sweeter, what we call French Toast around here, they call Pain Perdu in France.
“I was never a French toast kind of person, until I had this, and this is heaven,” Oriola promised. “Freshly baked brioche. Dipped in our French Toast batter and it’s cooked on the griddle, then placed on the plate and topped off with blueberries, mascarpone cheese, and walnuts.”
You can visit Altea’s Eatery between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., at 259 Park Avenue in Worcester, and online at alteaseatery.com.
Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.