The humorous quirky review on the ba.food newsgroup alerted me of the new coffee shop that replaced Torrefazione Italia. So I dropped by to check it out this morning, and was quite surprised to learn of several things that the NG review did not mention. The new coffee shop in the same location is Caffe Del Doge.
Disclaimer: I am not a coffee hound, and never really drank much of it until a trip to Italy last year with having my first Italian cap in Lido/Venezia (since the aroma was in the air on every street), and came down to having to have one to two a day. Since coming back from that trip I've missed that experience and flavor so much that nothing ever came close. Not even Blue Bottle or the mighty Barefoot Roasters (sorry!) which to me are no longer worth the waits in line. Greco in North Beach was great for a temp fix until it tasted more watery :-(.
I explored as much as I could of the shop. First the decor....it is setup pretty much the same as the previous business, but gone are the Amalfi Coast style porcelain pieces that used to adorn the walls. There are nice hardwood floors, and the menu is placed high up on the wall. And what a menu selection it was! Cappucinos alone had 5 different varieties:
Del Doge - $2.20
Base - a bit more
Original - more than a bit more, less than $4.50
Gourmet - $4.50
Venezian - $3.25
And all I wanted was a cap....I asked the cashier about the differences, and she said that the Del Doge is the house blend. The differences between, base, original, and gourmet turned out to be the coffee beans used. Gourmet beans were from Australia, and either Base or Original were from Columbia and Ethiopia. The Del Doge blend uses a blend of
Arabica beans. Given that this was my first time in here, I opted for the bare bones (Del Doge) cap to see how it would be.
The barrista had an assistant taking care of the milk/supplies, and both of them spoke fluent Italian (a very good sign). The guy ahead of me had a specialty coffee/espresso drink that the barista poured first into a martini shaker (lol pearl milk tea?) and after 30 seconds of shaking, he poured it into...yes a martini kind of glass. I should have asked what that drink was as it looked so good.
As I was on the go, I didn't have the opportunity to truly enjoy the cap in the porcelain cup, but in the to go cup it was still very good. My fondest memory of my first two or three cups of caps in Italy were that they tasted very smooth, almost like hot chocolate. While today's cap was someone close, the texture was a little on the flat side. Perhaps I need to upgrade the beans/blend. And see if it makes a difference. Prices are indeed high as the NG poster said, and I believe these are all single shots
(doh). There are so many other drinks on the menu, that hounds will have to drop by, try em out and post more reviews.
I took a look around their other offerings. They have candy imported from the Venezia region (even large chocolate bars with hazelnuts and related nice looking things, though at $8 a bar I'll save that for some other time). Even beans from Torrefazione, Rialto (within Venezia), and from Padova. (Not that the beans are grown there, but the vendors that supply them). Towards the back is a display of the various whole beans they use. Some of them were mentioned earlier.
So to my amazement I found an article about Caffe Del Doge today in the latest Metro free paper.
Apparently this is their first US US location ever, as they are from Venice, and have locations in if I remember correctly, Tokyo and somewhere else in UK/Europe. The name now makes perfect sense because it is also a reference to Doge's Palace, in
Venice's San Marcos Square.
According to the article, the parent company has sent Venezian baristas over to train the local ones (which explains the Italian barrista who made my cap) for about 3 months.
I suppose it doesn't get more authentic Italian than that for the Bay Area. If the quality keeps after 3 months when the trainers leave, then there's hope for a good coffee place (at least for me). I would think that if you are a die hard fan of Blue Bottle or Barefoot, the house blend might be too weak in comparison. In the meantime I'll go back and check out other drinks, while the trainers are still here
www.caffedeldoge.com is the company's website.