DePillo Café, Costa Mesa: It's What's For Lunch

It's often the way: The blander the location, the better the food. That's why strip-mall restaurants are some of the best in the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than at DePillo, a little family-run lunch spot in Costa Mesa that I highly recommend.

Not that its setting is awful, but it's in an industrial park within earshot of John Wayne airport. How wonderful could it ever be? At least they've made the effort, with tables and chairs both inside and out, making it a pleasant spot to linger a while.

Opened four years ago, the tiny cafN is run by Roberta DePillo, formerly a sous-chef at the Anaheim's Catal and Santa Ana's Tangata, who also worked for Patina Catering. For such a diminutive space, the menu is long–salads, sandwiches and panini, plus daily soups and specials, and barbecues every Thursday. There's a smattering of breakfast items, too, such as burritos and French toast; sadly, they close at 3 p.m, so there's no dinner.

Everything is fresh and homemade. Skip the Aram wraps (made with lavosh bread)–they're not bad, they're just uninteresting, and a waste of an order when you could be having a Mediterranean chicken panini. It includes proper chunks of real meat, marinated with herbs and garlic. I spent a good 20 minutes chomping my way through mine, each mouthful taking in thick, toasted sourdough, asiago cheese, red pepper paste and caramelized onions. Even the accompanying mound of green salad was memorable.

Last Friday's special–a Cajun mahi mahi sandwich–was irresistible. The seasoning was subtle, the fish light and flaky, the caper mayonnaise tangy.

But it's just as worthwhile to stop by for a coffee and a sweet treat. The lattes are perfect, and the desserts sublime, whether it's a slice of German chocolate cake or cheesecake or a fruit scone. When I bit into the latter, the blueberries were so ripe they burst.

“That was the best lunch ever,” declared a woman loudly as she stood up to leave. A slight exaggeration, perhaps, but my belly was extremely satisfied, and judging by the happy sighs of fellow diners as they headed back off to work, so were theirs.
Extra bonus point: DePillo not only have a website, they actually update it every week, so you can plan ahead.

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