If you’ve never been to Cala’s Kitchen, it might be easy to miss it. It’s the middle storefront of a fairly nondescript three-business strip and has its sign flat against the building. But keep an eye out for it, because the food is good, the price is right and you really should try the unexpectedly delightful Vinnie’s Original Hot Fries.
Like its exterior, there’s nothing too fancy about the main dining room of Cala’s Kitchen. The walls are painted a flawless soft sage green, and it is free of the usual decor items – no photos, no shelves, no knickknacks, no nothing. We learned later that the walls were freshly painted, but the effect is so clean and soothing that the owner is considering leaving them that way.
The perimeter of the room is lined with comfortable booths with tables in the middle and a counter set up with padded stools. A TV over the counter was showing a car race on the Sunday just after noon when we visited, but the sound was low and it was not intrusive. The second room, into which we peeked, held larger tables and would be perfect for a meeting or party.
Because the place does just breakfast and lunch, except for Fridays, the menu offers salads, soups, appetizers, wraps and quesadillas, sandwiches, subs and burgers, along with many kinds of breakfast foods. The Derby Morning, two eggs and toast, is a steal at just $3.29, and most breakfast prices hover between $6 and $7. If you want to splurge, there is the 10-ounce strip steak served with two eggs, toast and home fries ($13.99).
The lunch prices are similarly reasonable, with the high end occupied by the $9.99 charbroiled steak Cala’s salad, with mixed greens, three cheeses, egg, tomato, onion, chick peas, olives and croutons.
When I visited with John, Pat and John, two of us went for breakfast and two for lunch. But as we ordered, an item on the menu kept nagging me – “Vinnie’s Original Hot Fries,” a specialty of the owner, Vinnie Cala. Our server told us that they were french fries in chicken wing sauce and “really good.” She said, “People love them.” For $2.99, how could we not try them? She said she’d bring them out as an appetizer.
How good was that plateful of fries? Their preparation was perfect. They were taken out of the fryer, shaken in wing sauce and speedily delivered to our table. The thin, gloriously crispy fries were still steaming inside when broken open, and the wing sauce coated them without puddling beneath them or soaking in. The balance of heat and buttery richness in the sauce was superb and the overall effect was masterful. It’s funny to be so effusive about this simple dish, but both the price and the execution were excellent. Bravo, Cala’s!
The corned beef hash breakfast ($6.99) was served with two eggs, toast and home fries. The eggs were cooked exactly as requested, over medium. The pile of crisp-edged potato chunks were good and hot, and the corned beef hash was formed into a patty that was then browned on the grill, giving it some crunch and extra flavor.
The omelette called a Jambot ($6.99) draws its name from the Italian word “giambotta,” which can refer to a vegetable stew but is also given to an omelette made with sliced Italian sausage, green bell peppers, sliced jalapeños and potatoes. This was served with a side of toast. The jalapeños gave it zip, and the mixture was very good, although I would have added more of the tasty sausage. The thick-cut rye toast was a good complement, if a slight bit darker than well-done.
The chicken and cheese quesadilla ($6.99) was made with charbroiled chicken breast, an extra step that heightened its flavor, topped with melted jalapeño-jack cheese and served with salsa and sour cream. The flour tortilla was toasted and slightly crisp.
The sandwich selections are served with a pickle and a choice of chips, french fries, home fries, mashed potatoes with gravy, applesauce or soup. That’s a great range of choices!
Our final dish, the club melt ($6.99), was the star of the table. The thin-sliced ham and turkey that shared top billing with the bacon had both been grilled before the sandwich was made, topped with American and provolone cheese and a touch of barbecue sauce that added extra flavor without being overwhelming.
Cala’s Kitchen and Catering
Where: 6888 Erie Road, Derby (947-5211)
Hours: Opens daily at 6:30 a.m.; closes at 2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, at 8 p.m. Friday and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.