2401 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02140
It is strange that one of the most interesting sections of Cambridge for dining also seems to be one of its least-known. Indeed, the strip of Mass. Ave. that cuts through North Cambridge (basically between Porter Square and the Arlington border) is absolutely filled with restaurants, some of which are loved by both critics and diners alike, including one of our favorites, the excellent Chinese eatery Qingdao Garden. And almost directly across from Qingdao Garden is one of the least-known dining spots in all of North Cambridge, a tiny Mediterranean and Italian restaurant called SingaBella Cafe that resides on the ground floor of the Trolley Square complex.
Because SingaBella Cafe is on the other side of the street from most of the restaurants along this section of Mass. Ave., the place is very easy to miss, especially since Trolley Square has the singular look of a residential development and nothing else. The hard-to-see signage for the restaurant doesn't help either, as does the fact that it sits on the site of a former bus storage facility that, back in the day, seemed like the last place where you would find a dining spot. But SingaBella is actually a rather comfortable place to eat, with about 10 tables inside that are spread out nicely, lighting that isn't too harsh, and a miniscule--though attractive--outdoor dining area that is surrounded by trees and plants, giving it a cozy, private feel. Upon first glance, the restaurant looks a little like a fast-food spot with counter service only, but it does have sit-down service for those who aren't opting for takeout.
SingaBella Cafe has an impressively varied menu that features a number of Italian dishes as well as some Greek, Middle Eastern, and American items. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served here--though on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays it closes around the start of the dinner hour, and is closed on Mondays. The breakfast menu includes mostly familiar American fare, including omelets, pancakes, and French toast, though there are a few less-common items such as the wonderful mushroom frittata (a crunchy, cheesy crust on one side puts this dish over the top) and the earthy and savory Eggs Elena (scrambled eggs mixed with two cheeses and spinach). The lunch and dinner menu at SingaBella Cafe has Greek and Mediterranean items (tender and zesty grape leaves, a baba gnoujj plate that is spicy and heavy on garlic) taking up a part of the menu and Italian items (thin-crust pizza, an array of pasta dishes, panini with house-made bread) taking up another part. Soups, salads, and basic sandwiches (burgers, pastrami, grilled chicken) can also be ordered at SingaBella as well as desserts such as freshly-made cookies. The aforementioned panini are perhaps the highlight of the menu here, as the fresh bread is simply outstanding, and the combinations offered--including the fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, tomatoes, and pesto oil and olive oil for the Caruso--work together very nicely.
Ask most people if they have ever heard of SingaBella Cafe and you will probably get a shake of the head. This is too bad because the restaurant seems to have a lot going for it, including interesting dishes with high-quality ingredients, low prices for most items, and surprisingly easy parking, especially for a city that can be frustrating to drivers looking for a spot (there is almost always a space available on this part of Mass. Ave.). Many good options await diners who visit North Cambridge, and that certainly includes this terrific little spot that is cursed a bit by its rather invisible location.
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