Trying Out New Cafe Trieste in Downtown Monterey
November 18, 2011
Weekly editorial apprentice Quincy Venter is the kind of guy who looks like business owners would pay to hang in their would-be hip coffee shop.
He knows coffee and culture like Hermain Cain knows nonsense and the number nine.
So he was perfect for a peek into the new Caffe Trieste (241-6064), which cracked its doors open a few weeks back on Alvarado.
Lively founder "Papa Gianni" Giotta, 91, started the coffeeshop in 1956 with San Francisco's now-landmark North Beach spot where beats Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady once hung. This marks his sixth spot.
Here's what Venter dipped into:
I couldn’t help but think I was on Haight Street for a split second when I walked toward the doorway and the architecture of this sky-blue building—a look unlike the other shops and pubs on Alvarado—intrigued me right away.
Rays from the beaming afternoon sun fell inside at an angle that left the option to soak in the light at the window-facing seats or delve deeper into the dim-but-classic atmosphere.
I liked the table and chair arrangement, grouped mostly along the left side under low lights where, although each seat has plenty of room, they make for a great spot for an intimate meet-up or a lunch with co-workers or family.
Approaching the chalk-drawn menu you see their signature beans for sale next to a display of colorful pies and gelato so inviting I was tempted to get straight to the end like a Harry Potter novel. There is also a range of pastries and they've added some good-looking pizza. Reliable people say both are worth trying.
Fortunately, I took time to browse the lunch section before just diving into dessert. The tortellini tempted, as did the fettuccini alfredo, but their chicken panini sounded best, so I made it the play by choosing a baguette and Monterey jack cheese ($6) with an iced espresso ($2.75).
I also noticed that they sell San Pellegrino chinotto, a carbonated beverage I haven’t seen, and it stood out among the cappuccino and coffee.
My espresso matched the look of the inside: smooth and refreshing, the kind of combo that makes you want to bring a few books along and set up shop for an extended time period.
The barista brought the panini to the table and I was certain I got my money’s worth very quickly. The baguette was toasted just enough for a crunchy crust, and the melted cheese with pesto covering the meaty chicken breast played nicely with pieces of artichoke, a touch of red onions, diced mushrooms, and juicy tomatoes in the hot "press" event. A few slices of pickle and a pepperocini perched on a lettuce leaf flanked the sandwich, which was tasty enough, with the espresso, to earn my lunch-of-the-week award.
Still, the real hero of the day, however, was dessert. The seductive pie that caught my eye was a raspberry cheesecake, with a layer of sponge cake between the fruit and cheese layers. I ordered a slice ($5)—and a bite of the medley of raspberries with both layers of cake felt a little bit like an escape from reality. The graham cracker crust holds it together like a fancy rug in a welcoming room.
Another unforgettable detail is a motto on the wall, “May all who enter as guests, leave as friends.” I am willing to be more than friends after my time here. The comfortable and welcoming environment make this café one to fit into my regular schedule.