Pistacia Vera (Facebook / @PistaciaVera)
541 S. Third Ave. (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43215
Open daily 7a-7p (brunch served till 2p)
Accepts cash & credit/debit
Vegetarian/vegan/gluten free? Y/N/Y
Date of Visit: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.
Long have I been waiting to write about Pistacia Vera. The darling of the foodie world, both locally and beyond, PV has been featured on tours and in blogs and magazines repeatedly. I mean, one look at their bright German Village cafe and their near-pornographic displays of croissants, pastries, macaroons, and cookies and it’s easy to understand why.
I still remember when they started in Short North as Pistachio, in a brick-walled Pearl Street location that’s now home to Tasi Cafe. We wandered in during gallery hop and chatted with the owner. Soon after, though, the little patisserie had disappeared out of Short North and re-appeared as Pistacia Vera on one of the main streets in German Village. Clearly it was good move, for them, and to make way for the excellent Tasi.
With a rare morning free, the Mrs. and I visited Pistacia Vera for a weekday brunch. We found the cafe about half-full.
The big windows and open display cases provide ample opportunity for food photography. With so many eye-catching sights, you really can’t help yourself. The service aspect is simple: you place your order at the counter, are given a number, and then you pick from the dozen or so tables.
We started with the pain au chocolat: a croissant with ribbons of semi-sweet chocolate. Layers of flakes give way to a soft bite of chocolate. We both ordered coffee, too, which was one aspect we felt so-so about in the meal. Pistacia Vera rightfully serves Cafe Brioso coffee (who we generally love), but the roast tasted too dark, almost burnt, which put it in danger of overshadowing the more delicate flavors of the pastries and the brunch.
While we waited for our more substantial brunch, I hovered over the displays and photographed, well, everything.
Big, flaky croissants.
Ham and cheese croissants with prosciutto and gruyere.
Pain au raisin with a sheen so perfect they almost seemed fake.
Then brunch arrived. And in fine form, too. As we were deep into Dine Originals Week, PV had a quiche special on the menu. The Mrs. had the mushroom quiche, a tall and wide slice loaded with crimini and shitake and cooked to just the right consistency: it held together well without being dried out. Mushrooms are an unsung hero of breakfast. Few other ingredients impart a strong earthy flavor like mushrooms do, so when they are used properly in a quiche or an omelet, especially when complemented by the right cheese and seasoning, they can really shine.
I knew well ahead of time that I was going to order the tomato provencal baked eggs. This style is often called shirred eggs, which means eggs cracked and baked in a dish. Pistacia Vera’s eggs are baked with tomatoes, cream, parmigiano-reggiano, and various herbs. It comes with a toasted croissant and their homemade (gluten free) preserves – that day they were serving spiced pear preserves. The preserves are sweet without being sugary, and they go very well with the croissant. Word to the wise, though: croissants in toasted form are messy. Just imagine all of those layers baked to a crisp, and then imagine how they flake apart when you bite into them. Have a napkin handy.
This gets the award for Most Photogenic Bite of Breakfast in 2012. And the dish itself is one of the stand-outs of the year. The eggs were runny, which lets them mix with the rich tomato reduction (a “fondue” the menu calls it), the generous herbs, and the sharp cheese. It’s one of the better seasoned dishes breakfast dishes I’ve had in recent memory.
After you eat your breakfast, you can spend even more time eyeballing the rows of Pistacia Vera’s signature sweets: macaroons. They’re stacked in colorful piles that line an entire shelf, with both regular and seasonal flavors to temp you.
I can easily understand why Pistacia Vera is a favorite stop for brunch eaters in Columbus (or lunch eaters or dessert eaters or coffee drinkers or general foodies). The rotating selection of baked goods, with very strong regular features, plus a short but creative and flavor-packed brunch menu, makes it a great representative of Columbus’ strong food scene.