It's official: after months of construction, oven problems, delays and, finally, stocking, outfitting and training, the third member of the growing Frasca Food and Wine family, Caffè, opened this morning.
The sliver of a spot, tucked next to Pizzeria Locale, is filled with quirky artifacts that include paintings of roosters and a wooden deer head in lieu of the traditional taxidermy that adorns this sort of place in Italy. Part take-away counter, part espresseria and part hawker of specialty Italian goods, it's under the control of Travis Vaughn, who was once the executive sous chef at Frasca.
Like its siblings, Caffè isn't cutting any corners, ambitiously offering a full board of panini, pastries, soups and salads. "If you look at the menu, you'll see that there's more going on here than at either Frasca or the pizzeria," Vaughn notes, pointing to the extensive list papering one wall.
The menu, replete with staples and seasonal offerings, is also heavy on house-baked goods, including cookies, breakfast cornettos (croissants) and bread for the sandwiches, which Vaughn is baking fresh daily. Those breads are also for sale as rolls and by the loaf; so are the imported meats (which you can even buy by the slice), and a slew of other products the place is stocking.
"We tried to offer things you don't normally see," Vaughn says of the products that line the shelves behind the counter. Products that include cockles in brine, Italian black licorice, five-gallon jugs of olive oil that will eventually be available in smaller, Frasca-engraved bottles -- once Vaughn finds the right corks. And the house-made red pepper jelly that Frasca has long dabbed on cheese plates.
The food is supplemented by a beverage program that features espresso from local roaster Box Car (Vaughn hopes to eventually stock Box Car's whole beans, too) and imported sodas that include bitter beverages such as Sanbitter and San Pellegrino Chinotto. For patrons posting up at the tiny tables that line one wall, alcoholic libations are also available; Caffè will sell Aperol spritzes, carafes of Scarpetta Barbera and Pinot Grigio (made by Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan MacKinnon-Patterson and on tap at the pizzeria) and three beers -- Peroni, Moretti and Joe's Pilsner from Avery.
All Caffè packaging is eco-friendly and biodegradable. "Except for the chips," says Vaughn, brandishing a glossy package. Those bags were custom-made to feature a Dave Woody photograph, tying in the artwork from the other eateries.
Our favorite touch was the frico kit: Shoppers will be able to purchase a package that includes a pan, spatula and frico recipe, which details how to make the crisply fried square of crushed potatoes, onions and rich montasio cheese that Frasca made famous (and was named one of our 100 Favorite Dishes). "And we'll sell the cheese here, too," says Vaughn.
The chef says he expects the place, which is currently open daily from 9:30 a.m. until 8 p.m., to be busy for breakfast and lunch, and potentially on game days, when a flat screen on one wall will be tuned to sporting events. And if it starts seeing significant business at night, he promises that Caffè will stay open later.
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