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An Espresso Nook Brings Touch of Italy to St. Marks Place

Photos: Joann Pan

At the tiny coffee bar that opened on St. Marks Place yesterday, the beans aren’t the only thing that have been imported: the counter, front door, and other fixtures were designed and assembled in Lombardy, Italy by architect Beppe Riboli, and shipped over in boxes.

Giovanni Finotto and Caterina Musajo, the owners of I Am Coffee, wanted the 65-square-foot space that once held Another Wireless Shop to look and feel like an Italian terrazza. Beyond the sliding-glass front door, four people (and no more) can stand comfortably at a counter that resembles a balcony. There are toy birds by the handwritten menu, water pipes holding up shelves, exposed brick walls and Italian stone flooring — just the sort of touches you’d expect from the stylish proprietors of I Am Wine, an online artisanal wine shop.
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At Croissanteria, Homemade Baguettes and Salmon From the Family Smokehouse

croissanteriaDana Varinsky David Simon at Croissanteria.

Hot on the heels of Bikinis, the neighborhood is getting another European-style cafe. Croissanteria, which doubles as a bakery, will debut on Avenue A in two or three weeks.

You can guess what’s on the menu: a variety of croissants with flavors like cinnamon raisin and chocolate, assorted mini croissants, and croissant sandwiches like ham with melted Gruyere. Owner and chef David Simon also plans to offer homemade baguettes and a custom coffee blend created by Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Mr. Simon, 30, grew up in a food-making family. His parents, originally from Belgium, started Catskill Artisan Smokehouse in Wallkill, New York. Until early summer he worked for them as a distributor, selling their products to high-end stores and restaurants like Russ and Daughters, Dean and DeLuca, and Veselka. Read more…

The Bean Now Brewing On First Avenue, and Still Fighting Starbucks

The BeanDaniel Maurer

The Bean finally opened its outpost at First Avenue and Ninth Street this morning. When The Local stopped in, manager Guy Puglia was busy setting up the WiFi and co-owner Ike Escava was anticipating a shipment of outdoor benches.

the bean 5Daniel Maurer James Wechsler’s art.

The coffee spot’s third location (and its last one for now, said Mr. Escava) is the same size as the Second Avenue cafe that opened in December, though it has 10 more seats (60 in all). It’s offering the same array of muffins, danishes, espresso drinks, smoothies, and – oh, yes! – frozen hot chocolate, but won’t be in the beer and wine business anytime soon: the owners decided not to go for a license after neighbors voiced opposition.

Despite the lack of that particular competitive edge, Mr. Escava said he wasn’t concerned that a Starbucks is opening just a few blocks up First Avenue. Read more…

The Bean Transforms Into Truck

DNAinfo reports from the scene of the Bean, where after ten years on First Avenue, owners Ike Escava and Sammy Cohen were packing up this morning to make way for a Starbucks. While the shop prepares to reopen a block south, it’s launching a food truck, according to its Twitter feed: “Starting Tuesday, the EV Bean food truck will be parked at 49 1/2 1st Ave. instead of the storefront being open. Check us out!”

Coffee Shops Ponder Life Without WiFi

IMG_4093Claire Glass Coffee shop owners wonder if eliminating free WiFi access can reduce scenes like this, at Ninth Street Espresso, and improve their bottom lines.

When we East Villagers head to the coffee shop we claim the table, the nook, and the dent in the sofa as our own for hours on end because, well, it seldom costs more than the price of a cup of Joe. And what keeps us there? Often it’s the free WiFi.

But now local coffee purveyors are starting to re-think WiFi because offering unlimited access in exchange for a $3 cup of coffee draws enough Web-hungry customers to threaten their shops’ vibes and, sometimes, their bottom lines.

“It was a question of managing the Internet,” said Aaron Hagedorn, co-owner of Ost, a shop at 12th Street and Avenue A, explaining why he and his partner adopted a no-computer policy after 7 p.m. and eliminated WiFi after 11 a.m. on weekends at the start of the summer. “And we had to do just that — manage it — all the time. It would have been hard to stay in business if we didn’t.”

Not everyone was thrilled with the compromise.

“I don’t know how you can disconnect the use of Internet and coffee shops,” Ost customer Braden Smith said while enjoying an espresso. “They’ve always been places where you come and sit to work for hours.”
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