From savory to sweet, La Divina’s farm-fresh options abound

Modern café opens in Acadian Village

La Divina Italian Café is the latest in a slew of New Orleans imports to open doors in Baton Rouge.

Light and modern, the café is tucked into the Acadian Village shopping center, along with Trader Joe’s, Acme Oyster House and Galatoire’s Bistro. The menu, full of paninis and salads, is perfect for lunch or a light supper.

The paninis are served warm with plenty of melted cheese and fresh ingredients. One special, an eggplant caponata panini ($9), was a perfect juxtaposition of crispy bread and warm, creamy eggplant. Great comfort food for a cold and blustery day. Meatier sandwiches, like the piazza (smoked turkey, pancetta, avocado and tomato with aged provolone cheese, $9.50) and La Rocca (sliced roast beef, gorgonzola spread, sautéed greens and roasted garlic spread, $9.95) were large and filling enough to stand alone for lunch, but the truffled mac and cheese ($3.50) made for an indulgent, if a little tepid on our visit, sidekick.

The salads were also large and, in our case, so were the components. The Azul — romaine, red onion, gorgonzola, spiced pecans and tomatoes with a soft boiled farm egg in a red wine vinaigrette ($8.50) — made for a gorgeous plate and was delicious, if a bit tough to eat. The soup changes out daily, and when we visited it was a creamy, piping hot tomato basil that was just right ($3.75 for a cup). Olive lovers will also appreciate the option to order house marinated olives as a side for $2; these proved to be tangy and fresh, a great foil for a cheesy Formaggio panini con pancetta ($9.20).

As good as the savory menu is, you really want to save room for dessert. Save the other half of the panini for dinner and head for the dizzying array of gelato, all made with farm-fresh ingredients (the satsumas for the satsuma basil came from the owner’s backyard). Offered in cups two ounces and larger and in flavors like café Cubano (coffee with a hint of lemon), grapefruit, creme brulée, several kinds of chocolate and red cream soda ($2.25 for the two-ounce cup and up to $10 for a pint), it’s fluffy and light, yet sinfully delicious. Heaven in a white paper cup, La Divina’s gelato makes it stand out in the Baton Rouge lunch crowd. Combined with a fresh cup of coffee, it’s the perfect ending to the meal.