Fresh & amp;amp; Tasty

by Lauren McAllister & r & & r & Hooray for Beignets BREAKFAST & r & Sleeping in is great, especially on the weekend. But some things, like a pleasant breakfast surprise, make the pain of sleep deprivation worthwhile. Case in point: I walked through the doors of PICABU BISTRO shortly after 8 o'clock on Saturday morning; moments later, Chris the waiter delivered a fresh hot beignet ("bin-YAY"); it's a square, not-too-sweet French doughnut made famous by Caf & eacute; du Monde in New Orleans -- and a cup of strong, organic fair-trade Cravens coffee. Suddenly the world felt like a friendlier, more civil place. And that was before I'd even decided on a main course.

The bistro began serving breakfast on weekends about a month ago, and those light pillows of fried dough under a cloud of powdered sugar are the ambassadors of the kitchen. "We did that to make [people] remember us," says John Fletcher, who co-owns the bistro with his sister, Jane Edwards.

And there's no chance anyone will forget those beignets. The first one is complimentary, but who can stop with one? Save room for the rest of the menu, though, because it offers an eclectic spin on eggs, meat and potatoes.

"We want everything to be a little bit different, to have a bit of a twist," Fletcher says. Inspired by other restaurants that they've visited in their travels, Fletcher says the menu is "basically just things that we like. It's kind of funky."

The southern influence continues in the redeye ham ($9), a thick slice of cob-smoked ham glazed with a blend of strong coffee, molasses and a dash of cream. The sweetness of the sauce complements the strong smoky flavor of the ham; eggs and home fries round out the plate. Scrambles and skrizzles (scrambles with potatoes mixed in) offer variations on the all-in-one-pan theme, while chipotle hollandaise and Portobello mushrooms add a decidedly exotic flair to the traditional Benedict.

And then there's the mimosa menu: it starts with the usual orange-juice-and-sparkling-wine, then veers into other fruits and flavors (the Vanilla Splash and the Razzimosa). There's even one made with Red Bull: the Fizzy-Lifting Drink (a la Willy Wonka) will jazz you up and relax you, all at the same time.

A beignet and a mimosa and ham with coffee sauce -- now there's a breakfast worth getting up for. -- Ann M. Colford

Picabu Bistro, 901 W 14th Ave, is open Mon-Thu, 11 am-9 pm; Fri, 11 am-10 pm; Sat, 8 am-10 pm; Sun, 8 am-9 pm. Call 624-2464.

Viva Italia! COFFEE SHOPS & r & Doesn't it seem like every time you turn around there's another new coffee shop? Yes, we thrive on coffee to keep us going and fuel our thoughts. But are all coffee shops the same?

Co-owner Germaine Kirk says his recently opened Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe is different. "What separates us from the rest of the coffee shops is our unique environment," Kirk says. "Our location with the pond and veranda puts our coffee shop right on the waterfront. We've also married a European atmosphere and food with the coffee culture."

Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe is very much like a European caf & eacute;. It's next to a sunny plaza with an outdoor fountain and tranquil pond where patrons can watch the world slip by just beyond the edge of their table. It's the perfect fit for the Tuscan retail center, the Village at Regal Pond, that it's a part of.

The European feel at Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe is carried into the interior with gold walls, Mediterranean colors, comfy leather sofas and caf & eacute;-style seating. "It's got a classy, mellow, jazzy feel to it," Kirk adds. "Later this month, we'll have live jazz on our back patio."

The food and beverages at Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe also have a European flair. Kirk says he has a full selection of paninis and will import Italian pastries, like cannoli, from his native New York.

West-side specialty sandwiches at Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe include Tuscan chicken (with sun-dried tomato, fresh mozzarella, roasted pepper and pesto) and smoked turkey and brie (with honey mustard on a baguette). East-side specialty sandwiches include the Little Italy (with ham, salami, pepperoni, provolone, veggies and Italian dressing on a baguette) and the Tri-beca (with ham, bacon, cheddar and veggies). Of the various paninis, the grilled Caprese features fresh basil, mozzarella and tomatoes on focaccia brushed with olive oil, as well as one with fontina cheese, red onions, baby spinach and prosciutto ham on focaccia. Salads run the gamut from smoked salmon to Mediterranean. Wraps, like the Italian tuna on a lemon cilantro tortilla, are also offered. And of course, the caf & eacute; has bagels, pastries and desserts to go along with its lattes, mochas, granitas and Italian sodas. -- Susan Hamilton

Caf & eacute; Italia Deluxe, 4303 S. Regal St., is open Mon-Fri 6 am-9 pm, Sat-Sun 7:30 am-9 pm. Call 448-0887.

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