By Robert Bradley
Casa Azul Galeria Cafe, on San Sebastian plaza, was my first favorite cafe in Cuenca. Several mornings a week I would wander down, plop into one of their comfortable chairs, and read for a couple of hours while sipping coffee, or dawdling over breakfast. I was so mesmerized by the allure of Cuenca at the time that the serenity of the plaza and the comfortable ambiance of Casa Azul Galeria Cafe seemed positively magical and timeless.
Now I spend much of my time at home overlooking the Paute River and do not go into Cuenca often, so I was pleasantly surprised when I returned recently to see Casa Azul Galeria Cafe sporting a fresh look, significant expansion, and a more mature ambiance. The once tiny art gallery is greatly expanded and enhanced with portrait lighting, Additional indoor and alfresco seating has been added, and a new reading lounge will open any day. The ambitious remodeling enhances and integrates the gallery and cafe into a unified venue that is comforting, graceful, and elegant.
The laid-back vibe of the original Casa Azul remains, but the expanded selection of draft beers on tap, a new pastry display case, and the greatly improved art gallery are welcomed improvements.
Of course, the food is what matters most.
When I asked Brito, a graduate of San Isidro Cooking School, about his plans to develop the menu, he said, “You can expect a more polished experience. Plate presentation will take on greater prominence, and our selection of ‘specials’ will reflect my training as a chocolatier and chef de cuisine.”
I dropped in for lunch twice last week, once choosing smoked BBQ ribs ($7) and another time for Quiche Lorraine ($3.50) both were excellently prepared and beautifully presented. The all-day menu also includes a number of pasta dishes, crepes, sandwiches of all types, and a full array of creative desserts and small plates that are certain to compliment their delicious coffees and cocktails.
It should be noted, as well, that Brito’s posse — his two brothers, two sisters, and two long-time friends, have staffed the restaurant and gallery since its founding. This alone is cause for applause. Having a well-honed team staffed by friends and family is impressive for any business, having one that is unified in pursuit of excellence by providing innovative meals for hungry guests and an optical feast for discerning art patrons is a fabulous testament to Brito’s ambitious plans. They deserve our congratulations.
Both of my recent visits to Casa Azul Galeria Cafe were memorable for a different reason, however, what stands out is the singularity of purpose. Brito is absolutely committed to his guests. I’ll bet he spends at least 70 hours a week ‘on the floor’ supervising, and assisting in every way he can. He is as likely to be your server as he is the cook or dishwasher.
One more thing, Casa Azul Galeria Cafe books a bi-monthly concert to celebrate new art show openings. Please call the restaurant for details.
Brito is fulfilling his dream to create a restaurant one would be pleased to visit again and again. I know I will be there often, and I suggest you do too.
See ya’ there.
Casa Azul Galeria Cafe: Calle San Sebastian 1.86 y Sucre; Hours: Monday.- Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Phone: 099-574-0277; Facebook; Major credit cards: accepted; Notes: The restaurant is disabled accessible.