It’s a Friday afternoon and Mom and I are hungry for civilized fare that leans classic, not fancy. And, being women who think the next best thing might be what we forget to order, we end up studying the Ghini’s French Caffe menu for nearly ten minutes in a form of dedicated prayer. You know. To be sure.
Ghini’s (“rhymes with Lamborghini”) French Caffe has been in business since 1992. In Tucson years, that longevity earns the honor of a coveted institutional status, since the desert seems to blow through trends in a hot minute.
Today, we’re having breakfast at lunch; I’ve ordered Chef Ghini’s signature Eggs Provençal ($9.95) that I’ve never tried (I know, shame shame). It’s an extravaganza of 2 eggs over easy with a large tomato sliced in half, all sautéed in garlic and olive oil with spices. It’s a plate worthy of artistic notice, along with a rasher of crispy shredded potatoes, toasted buttered baguette and a perfectly twisted orange slice. The sweet of the tomato highlights the savory backdrop of runny yolks in a serious epicurean mouthful.
Mom’s Three-Egg Western Omelet ($9.95) is a mixture of mesquite bacon, tomato and onion with a less-cooked version of hash browns (per request) and true bread bliss with the toasted baguette. It struck three corners of flavor notes – sweet, salty, and savory.
And since we were doing breakfast at lunch, we split half a Wilted Spinach Salad ($7.95), a nest of organic leaves with mushrooms, boiled egg and a warm, bacon vinaigrette that I could have drunk by the glass. The dressing had the right touch of tang without moving into sour.
Ghini’s French Cafe matches the definition of the word, smallish with an unaffected vibe, a bit of funky, plenty of tables, often filled, and a large shaded outdoor patio that you can drink any number of boozy elixirs to coffees with your leashed Fido hovering nearby waiting for scraps. They’ll even bring your beloved a biscuit and water.
Not only does Chef Ghini know how to cook – she learned from her mother and grandmother in Marseilles –down through the years she’s expanded and amplified her menu: from French Onion Soup to Mussels to Salad Niçoise to elaborate brunches (do try their crepes).
Hearty French food deftly cooked and presented with the right herbs so you can’t wait to eat it, but simple. It was so good, there was not even a leftover to take home for my Movie Boy chi.
Next door, Chef Ghini’s father owns the attached La Baguette Bakery, that you can directly access from the restaurant, but has a separate entrance and different hours.
Friday, the one day that Ghini’s serves up dinner and is open into the evening is also the singular day customers can order desserts from his bakery. This place is in my ‘hood and is one of my regular go-tos.
Ghini’s French Caffe
1803 East Prince Road
Tucson, AZ 85719
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 6:30am-3:00pm, Friday 6:30am-9:00p (Happy Hour Menu from 4:00pm-6:00pm, Dinner Menu from 3:00pm-9:00pm), Saturday 6:30pm-3:00pm, Sunday 8:00pm-2:00pm.
Laura Greenberg is a Tucson freelance writer, baker, and cook who writes to feed her dog. And herself, occasionally.
She’s also the author of Edible Baja Arizona’s Baja Eats column, appearing weekly on Thursdays in the Edible Baja Arizona blog, and bi-monthly in each edition of Edible Baja Arizona magazine.