By Dan Curran   Published Aug 30, 2004 at 5:39 AM Photography: Neil Kiekhofer of Front Room Photography

{image1}Nova Cena Café and Bakery brings an artisan's touch to the food it serves.

Pastries baked on-site at Nova Cena -- at 241 N. Broadway, 1427 N. Underwood Pkwy., Wauwatosa, and 4425 N. Port Washington Rd., Glendale -- come in a variety of textures and shapes, says Brian Bielert, head chef and co-owner. "We make the most incredible looking bear claw. It almost looks like the real thing.

"We're getting back to the things bakeries don't do anymore: different cuts, different shapes, things that are a little bit more time consuming to produce."

Nova Cena brings some style to the presentation of lunch entrees as well.

"We don't just take hardboiled eggs and cut them in wedges for salads. We take an egg-slicer and fan them out over the salad. We don't buy croutons that are little square chunks. We take baguettes and crumble them over the salad."

Presentation is important to diners says Bielert. "People definitely eat with their eyes."

{image2}This visual flair is not the only way in which Nova Cena has an advantage over the national chains that have popularized "fast, casual" dining, according to Bielert. Unlike a typical chain, everything is made from scratch at Nova Cena.

"We're not serving soup that came from a bag that's heated up in back. It's soup that we make here."

Bielert says Nova Cena has the flexibility to change its menu quicker than a chain, giving meaning to the store's name, which means "new meal" or "new foods" in Latin.

Many items at Nova Cena are made to order. For example customers can pick from 11 omelet fillings. Deli sandwiches can be made from eight varieties of breads, made fresh at Nova Cena, with numerous toppings and meats. The brick oven pizzas offer more than 20 toppings.

Nova Cena took over the locations of La Boulangerie in the Third Ward and on Underwood Parkway in the Wauwatosa. Bielert, himself a former employee of La Bou, says some of the La Bou staff was retained, particularly in the bakery operations.

{image3}Omelets, quiche, Irish oatmeal and pancakes are some of the breakfast entrees. The slate of pastries baked at Nova Cena includes muffins, muffin tops, danishes, croissants, scones, biscotti and a variety of cookies and breads. The line-up of specialty beverages includes espressos, cappuccino, lattes, café mocha and chillos (frozen coffee drink).

In addition to the deli sandwiches, grilled items are available for lunch, such as panini, burgers, Italian beef sandwich, Rueben and Sicilian Breaded Chicken. The salad menu includes Caesar, Oriental Chicken Asparagus and Portabella. Three varieties of soups are available each day.

Nova Cena opened up a third location at East Lake Corporate Center in Glendale this past July. The primary audience is the office workers in the building, but it is open to the public. Bielert says the store has a spectacular view of the city from its fifth floor location. In the future an outdoor patio may available for diners.

Nova Cena's Third Ward site has the bakery operation, which purveys bakery products to area restaurants and grocery stores, including Sendik's, Grasch Foods and Café 1505.

The company Web site is