The Mt. Lebanon location is the second for Mediterra Café, which first opened its Sewickley spot two years ago. Both are extensions of the family-owned Mediterra Bakehouse, a bakery known for artisan breads, now a popular staple at many city markets and restaurants.
The cafe’s new expansion echoes the setup of the first location, only bigger. Both boast a well-stocked artisan market full of imported and specialty goods. What used to be a bottleshop annex at Fairlane is now filled with cheese, prepared food, and pastries
If you’ve been to the Sewickley cafe, more seating should be an exciting change; it’s not an easy task to snag a table inside the tight dining area. But in addition to more seating, the Mt. Lebanon spot also has a liquor license. Along with a smattering of canned, local beer in their market space, the cafe sports a full bar with cocktails, wine, and more.
Mediterra’s new cafe seating area may be bigger, but the cafe wasn’t any less packed when I went on a Sunday afternoon.
My dining partner and I grabbed a spot in the outdoor dining area, but it didn’t make my experience any less uncomfortable. While waiting in line to order, other diners crowded the market space and disregarded the precautionary six feet of social distancing. Crowds of mostly-masked people waited at the bar for drinks while servers fought to push through. An employee eventually went out to do crowd control, but it felt like too little too late.
The food is similar to that of the Sewickley menu, though the new location is open later. There’s a mix of breakfast offerings, lunch, and dinner eats; a wide range of desserts and morning pastries; an entirely separate menu for toast; and, coming soon, a list of tapas for the cocktail menu.
On my first visit to the Sewickley cafe in 2019, I tried — and did not enjoy — the Mediterra Café breakfast sandwich. But I was happy to see some changes made to the item, which made me want to re-order.
This time, brioche was swapped for a homemade English muffin, which arrived appropriately toasty with a light, bubbly texture. Zhoug, a fresh cilantro and garlic, pesto-like sauce, replaced the sour-tasting red pepper spread. Paired with peppery arugula, aged cheddar, eggs, and added bacon, these two changes made a once-forgotten and disliked sandwich into something I wanted to eat again.
There was no way the cafe could go wrong by placing smoked salmon on their bakery-made pumpernickel. Matched with labne (a dairy product with a texture somewhere between cream cheese and Greek yogurt), cucumber, trout roe, and dill, the smoked salmon tartine was bright and filled with crisp flavors, though at times the roe was a bit too fishy for my taste.
A pimento cheese toastie, which capped my brunch spread, was simple and delicious, made better by use of the cafe’s top-notch red fife bread. Mediterra managed to take the most basic dishes — in this case spicy, peppery pimento, sandwiched and toasted — and make them exquisite with their homemade bread.
I understand that controlling hungry people, especially during peak hours on a Sunday, isn’t easy. And now that Mediterra Café is closer to the city, I plan on returning frequently (especially with their recent changes to the breakfast sandwich). But until things return to normal, I’ll get takeout.