The shopping village of Montrose is not unlike Paris' Montmartre district. It may not be quite as historic or charming as its Parisian ilk, but it's filled with shoppers, walkers and diners. When Vasken and Annie Fernezlian wanted to open a cafe like the ones they frequented in Paris, their hometown of Montrose seemed the perfect location. Gio's Baguettes & More is the result, a respectable replica of a French cafe in a little storefront just above the center of town.
Half indoors and half out, the cafe and patio are lined with small tables and woven cane chairs, just like in Paris. And, just like in Paris, this cafe is a pleasant place to people-watch, peruse your iPhone, linger with a friend, or wait for l'autobus (the bus stops just outside). The music is a curious collection of mellow pop songs everyone knows. It's relaxing, but French tunes would seal the Parisian deal.
Imported baguette dough is baked fresh every day, illy-brand Arabica coffee is ground and brewed by the cupful, and unique European pastries are made in-house. While I wasn't wowed by the croissants, the bread is astonishing. The turkey and salami sandwich ($7.95) arrives warm, the long baguette light and crackly, the interior ingredients well-balanced.
On another visit, when buying an early-morning coffee and a boule, the enthusiastic server suggested he slice up part of the loaf and serve it with French butter while I drank my coffee. So gracious and so delicious. The panini, soup and salad we tried were fine, but I'd stick with the baguette sandwiches, especially with the imported ham.
The Italian sodas ($3.50) are something special that you can't get everywhere. Perrier sparkling water is mixed with Torani syrup (vanilla or raspberry) and half-and-half. They're like melted fizzy ice cream sodas, but better. I'd also go back for the incredible sables. Sable, pronounced sah-blay, translates as sand and refers to the texture of the pastry's crumb. These pretty, circular treats come plain with apricot or strawberry jam filling or chocolate with chocolate ganache inside ($2.50). For chocoholics, these may be a new kind of thrill.
We also loved the eclairs filled with imported French custard. These, and some other pastries, are smaller than most, making them appropriate for catering a finger-food soiree. One pastry that is not small is the beautiful Paris briest. Our server described it as "a cream puff the size of a cheeseburger." The large pate a choux bun is split and filled with a not-too-sweet whipped icing and sliced strawberries.
It may not be Les Deux Magots or Saint Germain des Pres, but Gio's Baguettes & More is a petit slice of Parisian cafe culture in nearby Montrose.
What: Gio's Baguettes & More
Where: 3805 Ocean View Blvd., Montrose
When: Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: Pastries, $2.25 to $3.95; sandwiches and salads, $4.95 to $7.45; Italian sodas and coffee drinks, $1.75 to $3.95.
More info: (818) 330-7135, giosbaguettes.com
--LISA DUPUY welcomes comments and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.