Allen Pierleoni

Counter Culture: Smooth seating, slick desserts at Fair Oaks eatery

Soups are among the star attractions at Mirabelle European Bakery & Cafe in Fair Oaks.
Soups are among the star attractions at Mirabelle European Bakery & Cafe in Fair Oaks.

“Grand re-opening Oct. 11! Live music, free desserts!” trumpeted the email from Fair Oaks’ Mirabelle European Bakery & Cafe.

We didn’t know it had closed. Actually, it hadn’t. The excitement was over the 15 Roller Gliders newly installed on the restaurant’s proudly named “Gliding Patio.”

What is a Roller Glider, anyway? Comfortably cushioned benchlike seats (for two and for six) and a wide table are attached to a frame, all underneath a weather-proof canopy. Place your feet on the wood platform and push down and away. The seats and table glide back and forth as one unit, in a motion so smooth that nothing on the tabletop – glasses of beverages and bowls of soup, for instance – is disturbed. You can stop the motion at any time.

The press release went on to say the gliders “keep you calm and relaxed. Kids love them and so do parents!” We liked the novelty, too, but were surprised they weren’t more populated with diners during our recent visits for lunch and brunch. Most everyone else chose to sit inside the echo-y dining room, missing out on the glider experience. One small problem at the six-top glider: The distance between the seat and the table is far enough to require scooting up closer to the table to actually eat.

The gliders were hand-crafted by Eaglewood Manufacturing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The wood is pressure-treated and kiln-dried Southern yellow pine, coated with marine varnish. The canopy and seats are of heavy-duty marine-grade vinyl, and the tracks are stainless steel with aluminum axles. Mirabelle is the only restaurant in Northern California to have them, said an Eaglewood spokesman.

“My brother Mohab (Gabriel) goes to Europe a lot, and the (gliders) are everywhere,” said Mirabelle co-owner Philip Gabriel. “In our country (Egypt) you see them all over the beaches in Alexandria (along the Mediterranean Sea) and at resorts. We decided to introduce them to Sacramento.”

The Gabriel brothers bought Mirabelle from its previous owners and opened in July 2013, staffing the kitchen and the bakery with a crowd of experts. Executive chef Jamison Bumgarner works with four assistant chefs, and executive pastry chef Jose Sanchez oversees a staff of three assistant chefs.

Over two visits, lunch pals and I tasted two quiches (Lorraine and vegetable in round ramekins, tasty but surprisingly dense), excellent soups (potato-leek with plump prawns, and one with tender chicken; and silken red bell pepper-zucchini), and four-star Florentine Benedict (spinach, tomato, perfectly poached eggs and rich hollandaise sauce, one of the “mother sauces” in French cuisine) and tender crepe stuffed with roasted turkey, mushrooms, spinach and Gruyere cheese, topped with avocado. Breakfast-brunch ranges from $10 to $15; lunch is $3.50 to $14; dinner is $4 to $24.

Mirabelle’s baked goods are gorgeous works of art. We had to force ourselves to stop at one Napoleon (incredibly flaky) and one slab of orange-chocolate mousse (incredibly rich), passing up gorgeous cakes and exotic pastries including life-size, chocolate-covered chocolate cake shaped like mice.

We’ll go back to taste the lemon-ricotta pancakes and the shrimp-studded risotto. Oh, and for another Napoleon.

Mirabelle, 7318 Winding Way, Fair Oaks; (916) 535-0100;

Pizzeria storms back

Mark & Monica’s Family Pizza has survived family tragedies and a fire that closed the restaurant for a year. It recently reopened to crowds of loyal customers who stood in lines literally out the door.

The pizzeria has been around since 1991, when Mark and Monica Brooks left their Mountain Mike’s Pizza franchise (Sacramento’s first) after five years to venture on their own. Now the remodeled restaurant is under the guidance of “the next generation” – daughter Lauren Brooks; her cousin, Kelly Kann; and Kelly’s husband, Joe (their story is on the website).

“I basically grew up (in the pizzeria),” said Lauren Brooks on the phone last week. “We reopened and were slammed on our first day. I was so shocked.”

Brooks will keep the menu the same (“It worked for 20-plus years”) but “we may add some (items) eventually,” she said.

On our first visit, standing on the sidewalk in a mob and trying to see inside the restaurant, we learned the wait was “at least an hour.” We returned the evening of Oct. 21 and found a full dining room watching Game 1 of the World Series on 10 TV sets.

Once seated (there seemed to have been a temporary chair shortage), we looked around and felt that not much had noticeably changed. “A lot of the memorabilia on the walls is the same as before the fire,” said a dining pal who’s had his share of pizza there over the years. “The old Coca-Cola sign, the sports photos, the beer signage and that fish on the wall.” The taxidermied trophy is a 310-pound marlin that Mark Brooks caught in Cabo San Lucas.

The menu shows eight house-specialty pizzas (Greek, all-meat, vegetarian, roasted chicken-mushroom with white garlic sauce) and a “create your own pizza” list of 27 toppings ($5.25 to $23; additional toppings are 75 cents to $2). Plus six sandwiches, hot wings (small but tasty) and lasagna that needed a do-over.

We liked our thin-crust (relatively speaking) pepperoni-mushroom-olive pie with pesto sauce and extra cheese just fine, and would re-order it any time.

But note: There is much more to Mark & Monica’s than pizza. Over the decades, it has been involved in the community (sponsoring high school sports teams, for instance) and has been a friendly and unpretentious destination for families. Children whose parents and grandparents brought them there are returning with their own children.

That speaks much louder than any menu.

Mark & Monica’s, 4751 Manzanita Ave., Carmichael; (916) 487-1010,

Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128. Follow him on Twitter @apierleonisacbe.