2 December, 2021, 18:45

From scratch with love: Ghini’s French-inspired eats still a hit

Coralie Satta's southern French restaurant has weathered many a storm since she opened in 1992 at just 21 years old.

It was 1992 when Coralie Satta opened Ghini’s French Cafe in a nondescript Safeway shopping center at the northwest corner of Prince & Campbell. Little did she know that 28 years later, she’d still be at it, serving her own inspired version of food instilled with love, like her grandmother served her as a child growing up in France.

“I fell in love with the art of cooking because of her,” said Satta. “Everything she made was filled with love, and they were the best things I’d ever tasted – even to this day.”

While northern French food is typically associated with the adjectives “rich” and “heavy,” Ghini’s is southern French-inspired. In this Mediterranean region, dishes and ingredients tend to be more on the light and fresh side.

Eggs Provençal at Ghini's French Caffe (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Eggs Provençal at Ghini’s French Caffe (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Our Eggs Provençal is an incredible little dish,” said Satta. “That dish came directly from my grandmother. It’s made with large slices of local tomatoes grilled and kissed with garlic and thyme, farm eggs, and fresh bread.”

And when Satta says fresh bread, it’s hard to get much more fresh. Ghini’s shares a wall (which has been removed to create a shared space) with her father’s bakery, La Baguette.

Nearly everything is made from scratch, including their three daily soups. One of those soups is Tucson’s prime example of French onion, which gets infused with Provençal herbs and wine before getting the crouton and baked cheese treatment. If you’re a fan of French onion soup, this is one you won’t want to miss.

French Onion Soup (Photo courtesy of Ghini's French Caffe)

French Onion Soup (Photo courtesy of Ghini’s French Caffe)

Brunch, baby

Ghini’s also features an incredible brunch menu, with variations of croques, crepes, and omelettes.

Les Croques, as they’re featured on the menu, include a traditional Croque Madame (sunnyside egg, thin sliced ham, béchamel, gruyere, parmesan on  French bread), Florentine Croque Madame, which adds fresh baby spinach, and the Chicken Florentine Croque Madame which builds upon the Croque Madame and Florentine with the addition of both spinach and chicken. All Croque Madame items are served with a choice of baby greens, kettle chips, or hashbrowns.

You could probably count on one hand the number of options in town of where to find crepes. Just make sure that Ghini’s is one of them. The options include a Ham & Swiss, Spinach & Swiss, Chicken Florentine, Ham & Spinach & Swiss, and a sweet Fresh Strawberry & Whipped Cream variety.

In the omelette department, Ghini’s offers a frittata-inspired take on what are too often ubiquitous options. The Omelette du Soleil features three cheeses, garlic, and herbs de Provence while the Latin Poor Man features potato, onion, garlic, and black pepper. There are also bold flavor options, such as Roasted Garlic & Brie (roasted garlic, imported brie, black pepper), and the Marseillaise with imported Spanish anchovies, local tomato, and garlic. All omelettes are made with three large farm eggs, toast, and choice of hashbrowns, baby greens, kettle chips, or sliced oranges. Vegetarians can sub tofu for the eggs.

Omelette at Ghini's French Cafe

Omelette at Ghini’s French Cafe (Photo by David Fox)

Expanded offerings

These days, Ghini’s has expanded offerings to keep up with the shifting demand of consumer behavior in the face of COVID-19. Most recently added to the menu are a variety of burgers and Take ‘n’ Bake meals for reheating at home for the family.

For just $40, six different take home options of baked pasta are available, including Beef Burgundy, Sausage Basil Marinara, Chicken Rosemary Lemon, Prosciutto & Parmesan, Chicken Alfredo, Bacon Feta Roasted Red Pepper Florentine. The meals feed around 6 people. Additionally, four salads can be added which also feed 6, including Apple Roquefort, Cranberry Feta Almond, Bacon Lettuce Tomato, and Baby Greens with Three Cheeses. Lastly, bulk soup is also available for $16 per quart for the Soup du Jour or vegetarian, and $20 for French onion.

Burgers are also a recent addition. It’s a brisket patty served with a choice of baby greens, kettle chips, hashbrowns, slice oranges, or soup for a small upcharge. There’s a standard Le Burger Classique that features Ghini’s own southern French twist, but the burger of the day, or burger du jour, is where things really get interesting. At the time of this piece, Satta is whipping up a Cordon Bleu Burger, which gets topped with grilled local tomato, ham, gruyere, and a Parmesan cream sauce.

Le Clasique Burger at Ghini's French Cafe

Le Clasique Burger at Ghini’s French Cafe (Photo by Kennedy Satta-Williams)

Staying afloat

While Satta never imagined she’d still be open 28 years after opening the doors to Ghini’s, (which in case you were curious is what her father called her when she was a little girl), she’s still never lost sight of her goal: to feed guests the love that was fed to her by her grandmother.

“I was 21 when I opened and didn’t think much of it through,” she said. “I figured that if I failed, I could easily start over again since I was so young. And I definitely didn’t think I would still be standing through so many adversities, like 9/11, the 2008 crash, and now COVID. But we’re still standing, thanks to our loyal guests.”

Ghini’s French Cafe is located at 1803 E. Prince Rd. in the Safeway Shopping Center and is open from 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., Tuesday – Sunday. For more information, including menu, visit ghiniscafe.com.

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Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.