Tuesday, March 27, 2018

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Smartphone, No Service? PB's Cafe'-Bar Europa Debuts Innovative Phone-to-Table Ordering System

On a sun-drenched afternoon in Spain in 1982, Basilio Ceravolo happened upon a charming café in Madrid called Museo del Jamon (“The Ham Museum”), where whole, aging hams hung from the bar with the pigs’ cleft foot still intact.

A closer look revealed the grease from each ham dripping into cups strategically hung from a hook at the bottom. The grease was then spread on delicious homemade bread and served on request to customers who entered the café.

“I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I walked into that place,” Basilio says. “It was special. The people were so warm and friendly, they were talking to each other in a civil manner about the issues of the day, and just really enjoying themselves and celebrating life.”

Basilio recalls that customers would eat “delicious food and drink beer and wine, but more slowly and in smaller doses than what we are used to seeing in America, and everyone was smiling and laughing."

Two decades later, when Basilio opened his own restaurant/bar in Pacific Beach, he sought to recreate the joie de vivre of those Western Mediterranean bars and eateries he so enjoyed in Southern Europe.

And he's succeeded. There are no hanging pigs, but Basilio’s Café-Bar Europa, an ultra-hip but super-chill tapas restaurant (and much more), is pure joy.

No hams hang from the bar, but the café offers gourmet dining, drinking and nightly live-music (jazz, blues, bossa nova, folk) in a happy, laid-back atmosphere unlike anything else you’ll find in San Diego.

Basilio, a longtime respected tax accountant in San Diego, has reinvented himself as a bold, creative and customer-friendly restaurateur. A foodie and natural and cordial host, he believes his eatery is popular in large part because it fills an unmet need in the American dining landscape.

The European tradition – specifically the way they literally just stop what they are doing to enjoy the passage of time and enjoy each other -- is gaining favor for many Americans who are stressed out over bitter politics, gun violence and so much more.

Since ancient times, the Western Mediterranean has been described by those who frequent its shores as the “Turquoise Sea.” How appropriate that Basilio’s cafe is located on Turquoise Street, just a couple blocks from the ocean.

There was a time not so long ago when Pacific Beach, known by the locals simply as PB, was not anyone’s idea of a restaurant destination -- unless you consider breakfasts at Kono’s Cafe on the beach fine dining (which on some Sunday mornings I actually do).

But PB has grown up. It has come into its own, especially when it comes to dining. I’ve written about a handful of the fun and funky beach town’s coolest eateries, including Costa Brava, The Patio on Lamont, Ambrogio15 and Izakaya.

But to date I’ve neglected to mention my personal favorite, Café-Bar Europa, which reflects Basilio’s electric and eclectic personality. The café, like Basilio, is one of a kind!

Basilio Forging Another New Restaurant Trend

Already a San Diego restaurant trend-setter, Basilio is at the forefront of a new trend that I think inevitably will catch on in restaurants nationwide.

His latest innovation is called phone-to-table ordering. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is. That’s the point. It’s a no-brainer, actually, but surprisingly hard to find.

Ceravolo rolled this idea out in July 2017, he says, and has worked out the kinks. It’s streamlined now.

Basilio says he brought the system to life because of the unique atmosphere and style of his place.

“It can get quite busy and difficult to take everyone's orders. With this simple technology, our customers can order what they want and they get it right away. We also offer ordering from a cashier for people who don't have smartphones, but we offer 20% off for everyone using our phone-to-table system,” he says.

Basilio explains that about 95% of all his customers now use Phone-to-table and it’s working well for them. “We are able to get everyone served and everyone happy,” he says.

How does it work? It’s actually very simple. You simply walk into the café, pick a table (each table is numbered), then go to CafeBarEuropa.com and click on the “ORDER HERE – PHONE-TO-TABLE” icon, and do your thing.

On the site, you can view the entire extensive menu of Tapas, paellas and entrees, soups and salads, gourmet foods, craft beers, wines and sangrias, veggie and vegan options, and much more.

But no rush, remember? Take your time. Look over the entire menu, because the food is superb and the selections are many. The mushroom soup is the best I have ever had. In my life. It’s amazing. And my wife loves the handcrafted Red Sangria.

Once you've made your choices, just click on each one, kind of like when you’re buying clothes online, and then go to the check out page. they will be delivered to your table.

Online Orders are 20% OFF! That is: 10% off Menu Prices AND half off service charges (10% online vs 20% at the register). The friendly staff will assist you if you have any questions.

The phone-to-table idea is really convenient, and evidently a big hit. “It seems to be taking off,” Basilio says. “People really like it. They also appreciate the fact that they don't have anyone bugging them to order if they don't want to."

Customers are evidently all in.

Says Carina Fleckner, “I can't believe I've been in San Diego for almost three years and had never been there until recently. I heard about it through Mario [Marauak], the Brazilian musician who plays there on Fridays and Saturdays. It's a super cozy place with very chilled atmosphere. When I opened the menu, I couldn't help but smile.”

Fleckner says she especially enjoys the Spanish and Italian dishes.

“Having lived in Spain for five years, I was pleasantly surprised,” she says. “Everything I had was delicious, including the sangria. Yum. I must have spent around five hours there... eating, chatting and enjoying the music.”

Fleckner says she also met Basilio and they talked about the new system of ordering and paying online.

“I loved it,” she says. “It saves you money, since you get a discount, and you don't get interrupted. Not that I would mind it that much because all the staff I met were lovely people. I highly recommend it. Kudos.”

Janine Holman says Café Bar Europa “is truly amazing. I loved spending my evening here. The staff was very attentive and courteous. It was fantastic meeting Basilio. What he and his staff have created truly provides for a magnificent night. Cafe-Bar Europa is my new favorite place.”

Casey Maslakow wholeheartedly agrees, saying the eatery has a “great atmosphere” and “an interesting ordering system that works. It’s an overall great experience.”

Everything Works, But the Live Music is Tops

A big thumbs up for what Ceravolo has done here. He's a very creative guy, and he knows what people like. The food, of course, is the thing. And for my money Cafe'-Bar Europa has the tastiest selection of fine food in Pacific Beach.

But as much as I love the food and the kick-back vibe of the place, the live music is what keeps me coming back for more. There is music ever night (they're closed Mondays).

Legendary San Diego blues man Tomcat Courtney is one of the many regulars, and he never disappoints.

Cafe-Bar Europa is located at 873 Turquoise Street in North Pacific Beach. Reservations are not required for parties of 6 or less, and large party arrangements can be made on the restaurant’s phone-to-table system.

Any more questions? Call 858-488-4200.

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