By KATHLEEN STEWARD
Cafe del Hidalgo owner Beata Kosakowska points out that her restaurant is an American, Polish and Spanish amalgamation with an Italian menu — truly American.
Kosakowksa opened Cafe del Hidalgo 11 years ago on St. George Street in keeping with St. Augustine’s Spanish heritage. Hidalgo means “Spanish nobleman,” and the city lent Kosakowska ornate chairs and tables that lends an old-world feel to the cafe.
As you walk in the door, you will see 20 different gelato and sorbet flavors gorgeously displayed. But the Cafe is much more than sweets. Available are paninis, salads, specialty coffees and cold drinks. You can order frappes, deserts and cakes as well.
There are a total of 44 seats, 14 of which are out back in an alcove. Children can order their very own grilled cheese and tomato panini or the all-American favorite, peanut butter and jelly.
How would you describe the restaurant’s atmosphere?
Warm, casual, sophisticated with Spanish and European flair. We wanted to maintain the Spanish flavor of St. Augustine. I placed a painting of Cervante’s classic character Don Quixote, a nobleman from the 17th century, on the wall. We want people to come in, relax and talk to each other.
What is your food philosophy?
Authentic and fresh, nothing but the best ingredients. We are the only eatery in St. Augustine that prepares fresh gelato daily on premises with no preservatives using the finest ingredients.
We rotate gelato flavors from 100 different types. I located a pistachio paste made from the nuts grown in the fertile Mt. Vesuvius region in Italy. I want the best. The menu is consistently fresh and simple. We serve an espresso coffee bean roasted by a company founded in the 19th century.
What types of cuisine do you specialize in?
We specialize in a wood-roasted Italian espresso bean made by Antica Tostatura Triestina from Italy.
It is said that the palette has five cardinal flavors, acrid, salt, sweet, sour and bitter. This Italian espresso bean blends all five for a superb flavor. Our baristas serve coffee drinks with an eye for detail and flourish.
What is your signature dish?
Paninis. In Italian it means “a little bit of something good on bread.” We have 15 different types from the pollo royale with grilled chicken, provolone, sliced tomatoes, with honey mustard to the bruschetta panini with fresh sliced mozzarella, tomatoes, garlic, basil, provolone and olive oil.
What would you recommend for a first timer?
How could I not say coffee? I’d suggest a cafe latte, or a cappuccino to begin with. When your espresso is served, linger over your coffee while visiting with friends. The coffee speaks for itself, while your device may be quiet for a bit.