I commute here weekly from Pittsburgh. The home I'm staying in does not have wireless. And lower Fairfield County seems to shut down at 5pm when it comes to free wifi places. With one exception: Beach Gallery & Cafe (BG&C), a little gem of a wine bar cum coffeehouse on US 1 in Norwalk towards the Westport line.
I like this place. At the same time it pisses me off.
And I'm totally busted as they'll know exactly who wrote this.
Let me start out with what I like. The staff, which on my first visit was Vittorio (cook, who was also working foh) and Shelby (barista/bartender), couldn't have been more accommodating. I was greeted warmly, offered free happy hour food, told the specials and left to my own devices once I had that info.
I had a nice fruit-forward cab/malbec blend ($8.50), a Roman-style espresso ($2), a decent Reisling ($8), a cappuccino ($3.75 and I'll explain why I ordered that in a bit) and a "small" antipasto plate ($8.95) that could've fed three. Seriously. I am not a small person and I only got half way through it. The leftovers made a fine breakfast. As I only recently left "the business" myself, I could've taken what they served me, divided it into three panini, charged $7.95 per panini and made $15 in profit. It was that much food. Don't order it or they'll be out of business in a month. And then I won't have anywhere to go for wireless.
My understanding is that this is the second try at this location. The first try was more coffee-focused and died a quick death because nobody knows where this place is. Although it's on the northbound side of US1, you can't see it until you've already driven by because it's blocked from view by its neighbor - a huge megaplex theater. That theater also means there's little possibility of decent, visible signage happening. Who's going to read about what else is in this little complex when they're trying to see what movies are playing.
As beautiful a buildout as it is - and it's nice - it's in a horrible location for a coffeehouse or a wine bar. That's part of what pissed me off. I'm trying to find investors for a coffee concept and here are some owners with money who just threw it away on a location that's in all likelihood toxic for the volume they'll need to survive. (I believe the owners also run Osteria, which I haven't been to).
I got to finally have a coffee conversation with someone other than at Espresso Neat. Shelby was trained by one of the Northeast's best, Mike Love at Coffee Labs. She knows what she's doing. But, as the owners insist on an "Italian" experience, they sadly forego decent espresso that could be procured from roasters in Brooklyn or Boston in favor of a traditional Italian blend (Danesi), imported from Rome and who knows how the hell old and stale those beans are when they get here. They also insist that cappuccino be served in an anachrostic 80s-90s style replete with a mound of dishbubble foam instead of silky microfoam with perhaps a lovely heart or tulip design as would befit a place trying to get $3.75 for a "single shot" cappuccino (I'll add that the single shot was a lungo, which made the whole thing insipid).
The laborious explanation above is to point out that I do not blame the barista. She's doing what she's told. She knows it wrong. I know it's wrong. She has my sympathies. I had to order one just to see how bad it was. That said, the single shot of espresso I had when I first entered was pretty remarkable given the beans had to be at least month old, if not longer. The crema was persistent, the shot fairly well balanced. Outside of EspressoNeat, the best shot I've had in Fairfield County (although not really comparable as it's two very different styles of espresso). If only the owners would let her do her thing with cappuccino and other drinks. Given they've got a LaMarzocco Linea, a Swift grinder and a Fetco Extractor bulk brewer, they are the second best equipped coffeehouse between NYC and Bridgeport. If they wanted to be a coffeehouse, that is.
If you couldn't tell from other posts, yes, I am that particular about my coffee. Which makes me a real oddball in these parts.
There were perhaps six other customers there in the 90 minutes I spend at BGC. All were there for the first time. So far there has been no marketing, although they're well past a soft opening. They really need some, pronto.
Anyhoo, in addition to what I ate, they also do a chili (odd for an "Italian" theme), a few different frittata, wraps (!), panini, salad and pizza. And dessert.
As I was singularly stuffed after half my stuzzichini, I wasn't even going to look at other food options. But I hope to try some soon because I will be back. And I hope I can get a proper 21st century cappuccino on that visit.