other than fran's, 7 west and a few other 24-hour spots, there aren't many downtown eateries open at 5:30 in the morning. But night owls and early birds should keep Caffe Brasiliano (850 Dundas West, 603-6607) in mind for dead-of-night noshes.One of several interchangeable working-class cafes on the west side, this modest storefront starts its day serving a no-nonsense toasted bacon and egg sandwich ($2) long before the sun rises. One of the last remaining tavola caldas in the area, Brasiliano offers its self-serve spread from 11 am. While both its eat-in and takeout comfort foods cost very little, no one will mistake the grub for grand luxe.
Wednesday's lasagna ($4.50/$5.50 with salad) sees a solid 6-inch square of flat pasta layered with ground beef and pork, sweet parsley-flecked tomato sauce and gooey mozzarella. There's no garlic, no spinach, just good. Every Friday there are thick, almost overcooked slices of grandma-style roast beef ($6) sided with super roasted potatoes, olive-oil-drizzled baby carrots, cauliflower florets and rarely seen Brussels sprouts and fava beans.
While both the tuna and chicken croquettes ($2 each) turn out to be mostly bread, rice balls ($1.50 each) -- deep-fried rice baseballs stuffed with tasty shredded chicken, cheese 'n' peas -- are great for throwing in the freezer to reheat later for a light lunch or supper. Couple rock-bottom prices with a smoke-free environment and Caffe Brasiliano will soon become a regular option for those days you don't feel like cooking. Think ahead, though, because it's open at the crack of dawn but closes early, at 6 pm.CAFFE BRASILIANO (850 Dundas West, 603-6607). No-nonsense tavola calda-style cafeteria lunches and suppers in an old-school Portuguese bar slash coffee house. Great last-minute takeout like lasagna on those nights you don't feel like cooking. Complete meals for $12, including all taxes, tip and a bottle of domestic beer. Fully licensed. Smoke-free. Access: one step at door, washrooms in basement. Rating: NNNNight movesFava beans get a bad rap -- maybe because Silence Of The Lambs cannibal Hannibal Lecter loved them so much. But they give some real heft to cold-weather meals. Popular in both Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine -- and well represented in Caffe Brasiliano's Portuguese mixed veggies -- favas are only available fresh in the late spring. Canned or frozen green favas, also known as broad beans, can be bought year-round from Portuguese grocers like Melos (151 Augusta, 596-8344). After boiling or steaming them, puree half the favas and mix with mashed potatoes, garnishing the spuds with the remaining beans. Middle Eastern favas are dark brown and smaller than the Mediterranean ones. Available both canned and dry at Arabic shops such as Akram (191 Baldwin, 979-3116), these beans are used to make the Egyptian dish foul mudammas. To make it, first saute some onion and garlic in olive oil. Add a can of beans and water, then simmer until thick -- much like refried beans. Drain off most of the liquid, then add lemon juice and hot paprika. Top with chopped tomato, onion and parsley,
drizzle with olive oil, and scoop up the lot with toasted pita.