The Palmieris, the family most recently behind Angelina Fine Foods in Findlay Market, have another venture that has been flying a little below the radar since opening last June: Europa. Located in the heart of Covington’s MainStrasse area, the restaurant brings a taste of the old countries to Northern Kentucky.
Europa’s ambience won’t exactly transport you to a European sidewalk cafe, but the food might. Its European-ness is not overdone but the food options obviously call upon European flavors and traditions. The menu of salads, soups, paninis and crepes samples the flavors of many European countries with items like the Irish Pub Club, the Bada Bing Meatball and the Achilles Greek Salad. Whether you like Italian, French, Spanish or Russian flavors, chances are you’ll find something you like on Europa’s menu.
Stepping into place you’ll see a full espresso bar and a display case featuring desserts and deli items. You won’t make it into the small dining room in the back of the space without noticing yet another case housing their other specialty — lots of flavors of gelato. There are usually 24 flavors in stock.
On my first visit, we were led to the quaint dining room decorated with pottery and art by local artisans. There was a private party of little girls enjoying an afternoon tea/birthday party. It was starting to feel pretty European after all.
From the long list of panini sandwiches I chose the La Principessa, made with homemade turkey breast, Fontina cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato and mango chutney ($6.95). The sandwich was a bit on the small side for the number of ingredients, but it was great. The chutney took it a level above an ordinary sandwich. I also had a side of potato salad, mayonnaise based, with little pieces of celery and an herby and peppery flavor. I definitely recommend it.
My girlfriend ordered The Mediterranean, a vegan Panini with hummus, artichoke hearts, cucumber, roasted red peppers, lettuce and tomato ($6.95). It seemed to be piled a little higher than my Principessa, on the same firm and flavorful bread. She would have preferred sun-dried or roasted tomatoes over the fresh slices. Her side of macaroni salad was creamy and a little sweet. We both preferred the potato salad.
There seemed to be plenty of staff scurrying around to take care of the tea party, the few patrons in the dining room and carryout customers, but here’s the catch — there is no dedicated kitchen staff. In short, this means that table service is … casual. OK, it’s slow. Our server seemed to embody the peculiarities of the restaurant itself; he didn’t seem to know exactly what he was doing, but somehow he was good at it — you had to like him.
On our second visit, we sat outside on the patio. The two high-top tables with padded stools were awkward, so we migrated to a table under a vine-covered trellis. This time our server let us know about a special for $13 — Roasted Red Pepper Ravioli with mozzarella cheese and a creamy red sauce. My girlfriend ordered it, and a moderate portion arrived. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was just as described — cheesy and pretty tasty. The Caprese salad that came with it was a hit. The salad had big slices of delicious, fresh mozzarella and tomato and was topped with zesty basil pesto and balsamic vinaigrette. The Caprese salad is available a la carte under the moniker Christopher Columbus for $7.95 or as a panini for $6.95.
Europa also serves breakfast items all day, including sweet and savory crepes, bagels and Eggs in the Basket. I wanted to try something from this section of the menu, so I ordered the Marisa Crepe ($5.95). Containing only pancetta, brie and green apple, it is a thing of simple beauty. It was the most delicious item I had at Europa during either visit. The brie and pancetta lend a savory richness that is balanced by the sweet and tart green apple slices. It’s a pretty large portion, too. I also ordered a couple Eggs in the Basket (one for $1.95; two for $2.95), which were dry and flavorless.
What about the gelato? For $2.50 per large scoop, we tried two flavors — the Chocolate Chip Cookie and Hazlenut Rum. The Chocolate Chip Cookie was surprisingly not very sweet and had crumbles of the cookies on top. It was different and fairly tasty. The Hazlenut Rum had a definite rum flavor against the sweet hazelnut and was very good.
There are myriad reasons to stop by Europa, whether just for coffee or gelato while strolling the shops of Mainstrasse, a full meal or just a giant slice of chocolate cake or espresso brownie ($2.50). But don’t be in a hurry. Just enjoy the food and atmosphere.
Go: 616 Main St., Covington
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday-Monday; 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday; 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
Red Meat Alternatives: Plenty of vegetarian and vegan options
Accessibility: Fully accessible