By Kathy Chouteau
Upon entering Richmond’s Café Gran Milan, the first thing that grabs your attention are the beautiful pastries artfully arranged in glass cases along the perimeter of the front counter.
After that eye-popping display settles in, your gastronomical senses will quickly be stirred once again by the menu board and its promises that extend beyond fresh baked goods to also include delectables like paninis, salads, pizza, gourmet sandwiches and the like.
Described by its owners as a high-end artisan Italian bakery and café, Café Gran Milan is like a little slice of Italy nestled among warehouses at its Richmond location at 5327 Jacuzzi St. As off-the-beaten-path as its home may be, the café stands out and exudes charm with flowers and umbrella tables outside its front door and a bright, attractive space with additional tables inside. The eatery offers up breakfast and lunch service every day except Sunday.
The Rich Life stopped by Café Gran Milan on a Saturday at lunchtime and found it bustling with business and friendly service. The staff seemed familiar with several of the patrons, many of whom were there to order specialty coffee drinks and pastries.
For lunch, ordered at the counter, our party sampled the Ham and Cheese Brioche sandwich, made with ham and provolone on a large croissant; and a few slices of pizza of the pepperoni and cheese varieties.
Everyone was happy with their order, with all café fare tasting fresh and flavorful. My son, who ate some of the generously-portioned pizza, commented, “Hey, this pizza is really great!” A ringing endorsement for sure. For my part, I had one of the Ham and Cheese Brioches and it was delightfully tasty.
For dessert, we had an exceedingly difficult choice to make with cannolis, croissants, eclairs, beignets, tiramisu, fresh fruit tarts and more winking at us seductively from behind the glass cases. Our group settled on a chocolate beignet; a beignet with custard filling and an apple fruit tart that the staff refers to as a “sunflower.”
All of Café Gran Milan’s pastries were crowd pleasers, with the apple fruit tart sunflower being a particular standout. If I ever need to pick up some pastries for guests or a party, this café will be my first stop from here on out. On a side note, the café’s top dessert seller is panettone, a traditional Italian bread, especially during the holidays.
Overall, while Café Gran Milan might be a bit out of the way, it’s well worth a visit—most especially for its sweet treats. Hours are: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sat. 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sundays. For more info, call 510-984-0679 or visit www.granmilan.com.