205 N. Signal St.
If you have ever been to Paris and come home to fail in replicating the experience of sitting in one of those lively Parisian cafes, watching people bustling by, sipping your espresso or mimosa, this spot might be a solution to your predicament.
I suggest visiting NoSo Vita on a Sunday, in late morning for brunch. Order a mimosa. You’ll catch the bustling Ojai farmers market traffic, cars and pedestrians, and the casual bistro is likely to be hopping. The décor is Ojai Chic, not exactly Paris-inspired. But NoSo Vita attains a decent mimicry with its spacious outdoor patio, cafe tables and couch for lounging under a view of Nordhoff Peak.
Before I sat for Sunday brunch, I visited on a quiet, cloudy Tuesday morning. The full kitchen was closed; coffee bar was open with light baked goods available. You bagel aficionados must sink your teeth into the sourdough bagel. This bagel with Picasso-esque squared-off edges protruding on both sides is not only a work of art to look upon, but the fresh, light tang of the sourdough pops in your mouth.
Lovely outdoor patio
My next visit, was for Sunday brunch. Just another gorgeous sunny day in Ojai, watching people walk by with flowers, heirloom tomatoes and many unidentifiable green leafy bunches freshly purchased at the farmers market. Choose your table wisely based on your desire for sun or shade, although there are plenty of umbrellas and staff are skilled in the art of casting shade where needed.
I also ordered the frittata with prosciutto and capicolla. For those of you not versed in the different cuts of pork, capicolla is a cold cut, dry-cured portion from the neck. The meat is joined with caramelized onion and crimini mushrooms. The frittata was topped with a surprising olive tapenade, fresh arugula and a dollop of house lemon ricotta cheese to die for. At first glance the frittata appeared to be of smaller stature than I would have liked. On a lunchtime visit a few weeks after it opened I had ordered the $12 Greek salad and felt a bit down at the handful of greens next to a pile of cucumber, tomatoes and olives. All tasty and fresh, but I was unable to mix them well on the small rectangular plate. And the salad fell a tad short for the price.
But wait, we are in Paris after all, in my mind anyway, so it is about the taste, not at all about the size or price.
Plated next to the frittata delight were purple potatoes. Fruit or breakfast salad is available instead of potatoes. Cooked with just enough crisp here and there for texture, with a zesty, peppery seasoning to complement the egg, onion and mushrooms, the meal left a satisfied smile and contented belly.
French toasted croissant
My companion ordered the tempting French toasted croissant. Yes, it is a whole croissant, doused in the French toast potion, tossed in the pan to complete the magic, and voila. The croissant is served with homemade apple chutney, dashed over the top with freshly grated nutmeg, and that divine (and oh-so-French-feeling) lemon ricotta cheese is dolloped on top. It’s all given a light dousing with white balsamic maple syrup. Ooh la la! The picky eater who ordered this had only to say that it was good and would recommend it to anyone. I concur with that assessment based on the few quick bites I was able to steal. The croissant stayed light and fluffy under the process of becoming French toasted. The green apples in the chutney had a light tartness that helped knock down any sweetness overload you might experience, and that soon-to-be-famous ricotta cheese with lemon just became a necessity for my all French toast dishes.
Other breakfast options include oatmeal with lavender butter, bagel and lox, and a breakfast panino. Veggie frittatas are offered, and I’m excited about the Spanish chorizo option. If I return for lunch, I think I’ll skip the salads and try the empanadas, tuna sandwich or panino. Chicken coq au vin panini? À tout a l’heure.
One tip for Sunday brunch-goers: When the patio is very busy, it seems the process for efficiently (i.e., quickly) delivering coffee and other hot beverages to the tables has not quite been perfected.