A small cafe located right off California Avenue, it looks oblivious to our rapidly modernizing cities, but it as they say, “never judge a book by its cover.” Inside, the white table cloths and wooden chairs with dim lighting set the mood for a great experience, and the food delivers. More than the food, the family like community fostered here is a worthwhile experience in itself. The attention to detail, helpful staff, and incredible food make you feel like you’re at home, and that’s something we don’t get to see anymore. Even with COVID-19 and the takeout situation, Cafe Pro Bono has kept its quality. About two weeks ago, we had our first takeout from Cafe Pro Bono, and it was absolutely incredible. We tried the seafood pasta with squid ink infused into the pasta dough, and the Cappellini as the vegetarian option, and they did not disappoint. Even though we were delayed in picking up the order, the food was piping hot when we sat down to eat. Everything was packed really well, and the bread with their special oil was a great way to recreate the restaurant experience at home. It’s always the small things that matter. Now let’s dive into the food.
A very simple pasta, but one that’s easy to mess up. Similar to angel hair, cappellini is a thin spaghetti-like noodle, so it can get overcooked very easily, and nobody wants a mushy mess of pasta. But Cafe Pro Bono doesn’t settle for anything less than perfection, and this dish met that standard in every possible way. Tossed with fresh whole cherry tomatoes, garlic, basil and a touch of extra virgin olive oil, this is a perfect dish for a vegetarian who is looking for something simple, but a burst of flavor. The key to this dish is cooking the tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are a delicate ingredient, they can burst easily and become very mushy, but when cooked right, they have a slight crunch and pop in your mouth like a pocket of tang and sweetness. This was exactly what the tomatoes in this dish tasted like. On top of that, it sort of tasted like they were sauteed with the garlic and maybe even basil because they had that wonderful contrast of savory to the acidity and sweetness of the fresh cherry tomatoes. Other than that, the dish was well salted and the basil provided a much needed herbaceousness to the dish that rounded out the dish perfectly.
Spaghetti “alla Diavola”:
This dish means Spaghetti devil-style, and boy is it worth it, regardless of its nomenclature implications. I’m assuming the devil-style is an indication to the dill, lemon, vodka cream sauce, specifically the vodka. Don’t worry, alcohol gets cooked away with heat, but the flavor is reminiscent of the real deal (I’m assuming). What makes this dish in my opinion is this sauce. The constinexy is down to a science, giving off the creamy texture without any cream curdling or grainy textures. The contrast of the lemon to the cream is perfect, and the dill adds a herby licorice-like taste which makes the dish so unique. A lemon-dill beurre blanc is a classic french sauce, and I love how Cafe Pro Bono replicated the dish with a different texture and vodka instead of white wine. But this is just the beginning of this dish, the other aspect that made this dish a winner was the pasta. Instead of going with a classic spaghetti, the homemade pasta was infused with squid ink, giving it a natural saltiness and a deep black color which made the cream sauce pop inb the final presentation. Finally, the dish was rounded out with some fresh lobster. Not some imitation crap, but the real deal. The lobster was perfectly cooked with a hint of chewiness, but in general very tender. It also had the saltiness of the sea taste that complemented the squid ink pasta, while contrasting the cream sauce. The one thing I would have loved to see was chili flakes, but then again I’m Indian, and we do love our spice.