The CRO Cafe Grows

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Temescal’s tiniest coffee kiosk is all grown up. After a shop shuffle in Temescal Alley and a months-long build-out/hiatus, The CRO Cafe will reopen on Friday, April 11 in a new location on the other side of the alley, with expanded hours (7 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week) and a revamped menu.

At just 240 square feet, the CRO Cafe’s new home is still “comically small,” said owner Luigi Oldani. But compared to the cafe’s previous space, the new digs — the former home of Crimson Horticultural Rarities (which also moved to a larger space in the alley) — feel positively luxurious. While the cafe still won’t have seating, a built-in espresso bar will replace the mobile cart that Oldani has slung coffee from for the past two years, first as a pop-up outside of Berkeley’s Bartavelle, and then parked inside his previous Temescal Alley spot. As many as fifteen people should be able to fit inside the new cafe comfortably, and, when it isn’t too crowded, customers can enjoy their coffee standing up at the bar. “It started to feel crowded at four before,” Oldani said.

The previous coffee cart setup (via Facebook)
  • The previous coffee cart setup (via Facebook)
Opening a full-service brick-and-mortar cafe was always the goal for Oldani, a one-time mechanical engineer who left a career in the startup world to pursue his dual passions for coffee and metalwork fabrication (via his other business, Oldani Art Studio, which handled the entire build-out for CRO and several other local cafes). The process just took longer than expected.

The good news for fans of The CRO Cafe’s espresso drinks and pour-over drip coffee is that the larger space will allow Oldani to be a little bit more creative with his beverage offerings. “I want to keep that spot as a destination rather than a spot on a checklist of places that know how to make a cappuccino,” he said. In order to help distinguish the cafe, Oldani will start offering harder-to-find drinks.

In particular, Oldani sees iced coffee as an area that has seen relatively little innovation at Bay Area cafes (Blue Bottle’s recent successes notwithstanding). So, when CRO reopens, he’ll have a couple of different iced coffees available daily. One will be a traditional cold-brewed coffee that will available on tap — served out of a kegerator, basically. Besides the novelty of the delivery system, the pressurization has a pleasant effect on the drink — it causes the coffee to develop a creamy “head,” like a Guinness, Oldani said.

Only four more days, as of this posting (via Facebook).
  • Only four more days, as of this posting (via Facebook).
The cafe will also offer iced coffee made with a so-called “Kyoto-style” slow-drip coffee maker, a time-intensive process that’s designed to highlight the characteristics of individual coffee varietals. And the cafe will have a carbonator set up, allowing Oldani to serve house-made sodas, including coffee soda that’s made with a cold-brew coffee concentrate.

In terms of roasters, CRO will continue to serve Sightglass drip coffee and espresso drinks, but will also offer single-origin coffees from Linea Caffe (coffee legend Andrew Barnett’s new company) at its pour-over station.

Because there’s room for a larger pastry case, the cafe will also expand its food offerings. There will be Authentic Bagel Company bagels, a wide variety of Starter Bakery pastries (beyond the three or four items stocked by every highbrow cafe in town), and a rotating selection of takeout lunch fare. The cafe doesn’t have a kitchen per se, so Oldani plans to feature grab-and-go items prepared by local food artisans and restaurants — he mentioned West Oakland’s FuseBOX as one possible purveyor.

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