SLU: Transitioning from Neighborhood to Community

by Allie @Caffe Torino | April 27th, 2014

SLU Art Walk

Welcome to the 1st South Lake Union Art Walk!

We’ve spent a long time as a neighborhood under construction.
Early morning wake up calls from the jack hammers and dump trucks across the street, insane traffic jams on Mercer, and at one point even the mysterious unearthing of animal artifacts where an apartment complex was being built, but as the dust settles from construction and the sun pushes our famously anti-social selves into the sun, those of us here in SLU are suddenly left with the question, well what should we do now?
Business owners and members of the SLU community wondered the same thing, and their solution? An Art walk! For the past year you’ve been able to catch small art shows at various businesses around the neighborhood, but thanks to the dedication and tireless efforts of many beautiful people who want to see our SLU community continue to grow and better, we are happy to invite you to the First Official South Lake Union Art Walk on May 2nd, 2014 from 5-8pm. Come say hi to your neighbors and join us for a night of art, wine, and community! The art walk will take place at over 30 venues in the South Lake Union neighborhood in conjunction with a Storefronts-led guided tour, which takes empty storefronts and turns them into art installations. You can catch 8 of those installations this month in the heart of the amazon campus. Come out, drink wine, and experience the art and culture our rapidly evolving community has to offer. We can’t wait to see you!

Visit the SLU Art Walk Facebook Page

Friday, May 2 | 5 - 8:00 pm

Tastes of Italy and Pillow talk!

by Caffe Torino | November 21th, 2013

Hoodrest display

Hoodrest sample pillows

Caffè Torino has teamed up with Seattle based Hoodrest to celebrate the holiday season!
Starting Sunday, 24 November we'll be offering an exclusive range of unique, Earth-friendly pillows, so why not join us for our inaugural Brunch and inspire your holiday shopping with delicious coffee and homemade flavors of Italy while considering that perfect keepsake pillow as a gift for someone really special.

Hoodrest will be with us through Friday, 20 December. Their handmade pillow designs fall into one of four categories:

  • Sports: Team names and emblems
  • Collegiate: School crests and logos
  • Lifestyle: The brands of favorite beers, bands, or companies
  • Location: Vacation destinations and hometowns

www.hoodrest.com

Starting Sunday, November 24 through Friday, 20 December
'Meet the Makers' Thursday, 5 December 4:30 - 7:00 pm

Now serving Brunch!

by Caffe Torino | November 20th, 2013

Brunch recipe testing

Brunch recipe testing dishes

Sundays are not going to be the same! After a successful recipe testing session (thank YOU friends, you know who you are), we're happy to share our creations with everyone. Our menu is simple yet flavorful, always centered around fresh ingredients and pastries baked in-house.
We are featuring Macrina granola for our yogurt parfaits and fresh fruit (right now it's pear and pomegranate), egg dishes that come with a side of either fresh fruit, roasted potatoes or our house mixed green salad (with pear, walnuts, goat cheese, red onion in a honey mustard dressing). Of course we'll have mimosas, prosecco and our wonderful espresso drinks!

No reservations yet, just come on down and we'll feed you!

Menu available here

Buon Compleanno Caffe Torino!

by Caffe Torino | October 1st, 2013

Anniversary Celebrations

10/8/2012 - 10/8/2013 - One year in business.

Over every new restaurant looms that ominous statistic dooming 80% to fail within the first year, so we're ringing in our one year mark with a healthy gulp of Prosecco and a sigh of relief. Just a year ago we marched into South Lake Union with nothing but a Dorothy bag full of polenta and a dream, and despite settling down in a largely unsettled space we somehow escaped becoming that sweeping statistic.
Through a first few months of servicing delinquent refrigerators rather than serving customers, we managed to fine tune our menu only to face a dusty explosion of construction around the store. Dirt and noise notwithstanding, business materialized and we've even managed to grow every month since.

Yet even through the numbing haze of celebratory bubbles, we realize that making it through a year of construction is just the first obstacle in the longer and more ambiguous process of South Lake Union's development into a real neighborhood. Aggressive expansion of Amazon's campus raises fear of another Bellevue, yet small storefronts still abound and even the Bartell's offers a draft selection for growler refills. That peculiar harmony of a corporate names and neighborhood warmth bodes well for us at Caffe Torino as what once seemed just a viable space might just become a home.

Construction: blessing or curse?

by Caffe Torino | May 17th, 2013

Parking on Yale

Our street, a no parking zone since March.

While recently approved zoning will surely thrust SLU into a frenzy of development, our excitement is tempered by the prospect of prolonging our currently complicated relationship with construction. At the time we moved into our space, work on a towering retail and apartment complex had just begun across the street and crews provided us with essential business in those first trying months.
Currently progress has expanded the work site into the street and developers, through fees paid to the city, have eliminated parking around their perimeter, inadvertently making access to the storefront inconvenient, not to mention the diverting effect of noise and dirt. The residential space directly above us has thankfully maintained foot traffic and kept us afloat, but some neighboring businesses haven't been as fortunate, one close by having been bordered on all sides by sidewalks closed to pedestrians. Unfortunately, our lease isn't pro-rated according to conditions outside of our building, and revenues garnered by the city from developers are never seen by small businesses patiently waiting in the shadows of re-bar and scaffolding.

Here at Caffè Torino, as our neighbor nears completion, we're caught between feelings of anticipation over the promise of a new, burgeoning clientele and anxiety at the possibility of one nearly surmounted obstacle simply multiplying into many.
Our personal frustration is only a tiny fraction of the larger conversation surrounding development in South Lake Union and Seattle as a whole. Both small, independent businesses and large corporate developers have much to contribute to the culture and economy of Seattle, leaving the city a difficult choice akin to picking a favorite child. Who demands priority is up to debate, a debate that's grown even more contentious as Seattle's demand for density threatens well established physical and cultural landscapes. Alas, there will never be a universally satisfying answer to that question, but we at Caffè Torino are starting to feel like the artistic middle child, struggling for attention over the loud, dusty, financially-backed roar of our bigger sister.

It's time for Gelato!

by Caffe Torino | April 17th, 2013

Affogato offerings

On the left, affogato with chocolate, on the right affogato with espresso. Topped with amaretto crumbs and our very own cat's tongues.

After this seemingly endless winter (which resembled more a gray, perpetual dusk than a season with any discernible features) another Seattle spring has finally arrived in all its floral livery and an even more pronounced, sadistic weather convergence zone. Yet, despite last weekend's harrowing hail storm and only one memorably sunny day a quarter into the season, last night's wet, cold streets were filled with enough booty shorts and tank tops to almost make you forget nightly lows still dwell in the low 40's. That's thing about Spring in Seattle—the weather may only improve by a matter of a few degrees, but we'll pretend if we have to because it's been a damn long winter and we deserve it.

The trees are abloom in front of Caffe Torino and so is construction across the street. The slowly improving weather and development around our block is mirrored by our growing clientele, and in defiance of the cold and rain we've partnered with Seattle's own D'Ambrosio to ease the last climate pains before Summer with a new selection of frozen, Italian treats.

Our offerings include handmade ice-cream sandwiches (served in a duo of our Polenta cookies and rolled in pistachio crumbs or dipped in chocolate), Affogato (literally "drowned"), an Italian sundae served with either espresso or hot chocolate, and our house croissants and brioche stuffed with gelato. If that isn't enough to drown out the rain, come in at 4 o'clock - we've got more than enough of wine and beer to get you through until June 21st.

The Bicerin issue

by Caffe Torino | March 5th, 2013

Bicerin collage

Often when it comes to food, coffee in particular, complexity gets the best of us. With cafes now a fixture of the consumer landscape, Italian espresso has become a regular feature of the American diet. Marketing forces have not only had a hand in popularizing café culture but also in the infinite aberrations of what was once a fairly simple recipe—coffee, milk, and maybe some sugar.

One needn’t look any further than Starbucks’ infamous and wildly popular Caramel Macchiato for an example in a classic reinvented. Taking creative license to a dizzying height, Starbucks has bloated the humble demitasse into a saccharine-sweet, often 20-ounce pillar of dairy, topped with the obligatory flourish of some syrupy drizzle—oh, and some espresso as well. I once had a Caramel Macchiato returned to me with the complaint that it “taste[d] too much like coffee.” A macchiato that tasted much like coffee…but I digress.

Keeping this trend in mind while writing our menu, we’ve stuck with a tried and true basic selection, with the exception of a few regional specialties, including our most popular, and recently most problematic beverage, the Bicerin. The café that invented the Bicerin has kept its recipe a secret, although like many of the most coveted recipes the appeal doesn’t lie so much in a long list of rare ingredients (the Bicerin requires only quality espresso, hot chocolate, and cream) but in its preparation which varies from place to place. Reactions to our versions have been evenly split: those who love it, and those who are perturbed by its inconsistency with those they drank in Italy.

After readjusting our rations and temperatures to no avail, we’ve come to the understanding that our Bicerin tastes perhaps exactly as it should—like our Bicerin. There’s scant chance we’ll ever perfectly recreate anything you’ve had vacationing in Italy, just as there’s little chance of any chef challenging Mom’s famous meatloaf. What you will get, though, is a true and real classic— a specialty drink of three whole, fresh, quality ingredients carefully prepared without gimmicks. And if you’re still not convinced, we’re well equipped to make a pretty authentic Caramel Macchiato.

A new kid on the block

by Caffe Torino Team | February 15th, 2013

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It's been almost five months now and after a few initial hiccups (when they were telling me to buy new refrigeration equipment I should have listened!) and a flood, we're doing well and business keeps growing! We're extremely excited to be part of this very vibrant neighborhood and it's amazing how much construction is happening around us. Which means that we will get to see our favorite construction workers for a few more months! They do drink a lot of coffee and we are grateful that they choose us. We've also received some tremendous support by local businesses and we hope to keep extending our network of clients beyond the Cascade neighborhood. In the meantime, we're looking forward to spring/summer, we can't wait to put our outdoor furniture out and did someone say ice-cream sandwiches????

Mi illumino di ricordi...

by Andrea Florissi | January 31st, 2013

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I've received so many compliments on the chandelier it's not even funny. While we were working on it, I really couldn't tell if the end result was going to be cool or tacky. Luckily it turned out super cool and I'm very proud of it. The original fixture belonged to John Akamatsu, the architect that has worked with me on the design/layout of the cafe. Then I started collecting images that were meaningful to me (there is a picture of my grandma on the chandelier as well) either of Torino, or Italy. Then the boring part...we had acrylic cut to postcard sizes and strips that had to be manually sanded down ONE BY ONE, to remove the saw cut marks...I can't thank my friend David Serra enough for helping with that tedious task. Several people asked me if it was for sale and where they could buy one. The answers are no and I don't think you can. I decided to name it "Mi illumino di ricordi" (literally, I illuminate myself with memories) as a reference to Ungaretti's Mattina, a very famous two-line hermetic poem that goes "Mi illumino di immenso" ("I illuminate myself with immensity"), and since it's a light fixture it just made sense to combine the memories with the light. I dare you to name at least 10 of the images that are on it, if you can, maye I'll buy you coffee!

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