Written by Kelsey Maki
Food is capable of capturing emotion, memory and character.
Grilled cheese and hearty, smooth tomato soup recall memories of rainy days and warm sweaters, cucumber sandwiches taste of grassy, cloudless spring and cherry red Popsicles can not help but to conjure up a whiff of sunscreen and sticky heat.
The atmosphere of food has a similar effect on the body – a restaurant is designed to illicit a particular feeling on the part of a patron.
1950s diners strew their walls with pastel colors and black and white photos, serving flavored cokes in frosted glasses; similarly Starbucks works tirelessly to create a cozy, alternative community meeting place where students, parents and children alike will study, converse and connect in oversized chairs under the inviting glow of amber light.
The power of a space and the association of the food within becomes, for many, an obsession.
Finding a familiar atmosphere can connect you to the memories and moments you spent in a similar space.
For many, the austerity of a European Café becomes just such a point of desire – its clarity and simplicity is something many of us yearn for, wanting desperately to take in a cappuccino on a narrow tray with a tiny spoon, looking out over busy city streets full of pedestrians, dogs and bicycles.
Such a location is difficult to find in Central Texas, but 360 Primo, in the Arboretum at 9828 Great Hills Trail #120, comes fairly close.
Although the view is certainly not that of a canal or a historic park, the coolness of the red, black and silver interior harkens the calm and collected sensibility of the quintessential European Café.
A smattering of smart panini sandwiches and an extensive beverage menu make up for the dismal parking lot that sits beyond 360 Primo’s strip mall storefront.
The lunch special for $5.75 features half of a sandwich, a side salad and a choice of black or green tea.
Highlights of its superior Panini menu are the turkey, brie and calamatta olive, as well as the chicken, mushroom and provolone. Panini are perfectly thin and patterned appropriately in delicious, toasted stripes.
Individual pizzas are available for four to six dollars, and a diverse assortment of pastries is difficult to ignore.
I am sad to report that the gelato (something I consider one of the more divine parts of being a living, breathing, eating individual) is upsettingly sub-par – freezer burned and stiff.
The beverage menu of 360 Primo is astounding in variety and creativity.
It offers the staples of any Café, but in Texas-sized proportions. Cappuccinos are softball sized and served, appropriately, with an Italian chocolate.
In addition, 360 Primo keeps late hours (open until 10 on weeknights and 11 on Saturday and Sunday), offering its nocturnal clientele clever coffee cocktails as well as an assortment of wine and beer.
360 Primo’s misgivings (cement view, crummy gelato) are made up for by its authentic atmosphere.
With a little imagination, a softball-sized cappuccino and a delicate handful of panini, 360 Primo might just take you back, if for only a moment, to that overseas spot; the small spoons, the dogs and the confident quiet of that memorable place.
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