A Day of Days, at Caffe del Doge…

by ninameetscafe

And… we’re OFF! On the eve of February 2010, we begin a wonderful adventure of pastry-tasting, coffee-drinking and overall atmosphere-analyzing right here at Caffe del Doge on University Avenue in Palo Alto. It’s glorious.

This actually isn’t my first time here. It might be my third. But the beginning had to start here, and today the stars aligned and said, “Nina. Yes. You are SO right.”

Technically, I began this blog in December, in the midst of the most beautiful white Christmas in Seoul I could have imagined. But then winter quarter began, got in the way, and then got in the way some more for good measure. However, a girl in my Italian class recently noted that she had come here last weekend after hearing one of my many enthusiastic I-love-this-or-that-café-and-had-this-or-that-fabulous-pastry rants, and I knew this weekend was the weekend.

And so the day has come. Thus, I welcome you with an open heart, a smiling face, veins coarsing with the caffeine of a French Press Coffee, Rosso ($3.50), and a mouth overwhelmingly grateful for the taste of chestnut cake ($5 per slice).

Why does this café bring such fortunate things? Perhaps it’s the orange-yellow walls, or the endlessly variable BuddhaBar-lounge-jazz-GipsyKings-Juanes-world-sometimes-totally-random-dance music that just turned on some Beyonce or something. (Edie, my darling roommate, and I just turned to each other in totally amused surprise.) Or perhaps it’s the constant and often multilingual chatter wafting through air.

University Avenue is lined with numerous restaurants and cafes, but Caffe del Doge stands out to me as among the most authentic. It advertizes its Venetian roots and loyalty to the Italian understanding of coffee. (Oh, and I JUST took my last bite of the chestnut cake slice. Wow. Layers of chocolate, crunchy chestnut wafer, soft cake and overall richness. Mm. And not to be had again for a little while, I should say. A little pricey, to be sure, but not a meager slice.) Even the counter features a space where I saw a woman taking her coffee a piedi, in the Italian way. What’s more, Gianfranco (spelling? I’ll ask him later), the wonderful elderly man who has been here clearing the tables most times we’ve come, is Italian. Hence the name. Edie and I introduced ourselves. And I proceeded to practice some disjointed second-year Italian with him, feeling mostly ungrammatical the whole time. Also, I absolutely appreciate their use of “panino” for sandwich over “panini.” (Gianfranco and I are totally friends, oh my god! “Ciao, Nina, come stai?” he asked in passing. I’m so excited to become a familiar face here!) Because “panini” is plural. And you just cannot get one “panini.” Come on, people. Edie knows how this bothers me.

And the coffee is real. Last time Edie and I came here, I skipped past the drip-coffee path I usually tread and went for the French Press Coffee, Nero. It was served in a silver pot, accompanied by a black cup and saucer and a silver spoon on a little black tray, and made me more wired than I have ever been in my life. Strong? Definitely. So today, I tried the French Press Coffee, Rosso: 30 percent less caffeine. Still felt jittery [perhaps 30 percent less]. But remember – I drank it sans milk, and I’m not completely caffeine-experienced. “Cheap” isn’t the correct adjective for del Doge, but neither is “overpriced.” And if you have questions about the coffee, ask the employees – they know their stuff.

The heavenly tiramisu croissant must be noted! The well-proportioned cream filling whispers of coffee and the soft sprinkling of cocoa powder on top leaves a smooth leathery feeling on the fingertips. Light and delectably satisfying. The croissant itself is solid enough to be handled, and flaky enough to deserve its name. Beware: it seems to run out by the early afternoon; Edie and I had only just grabbed the last one of the day.

Productivity can be found here, and easily. Edie has had so many “ah-ah!!!” Econ moments in the past several hours. And I have never left without feeling accomplished, whether it be with my research project last time, or Statistics practice packet today. Others come here with their laptops, [presumably] business associates and/or friends for a chat. I’ve noticed a great balance of people – even families – lining up for something to go and those planning on staying a while. It gets pretty busy around lunch time. The loft-like area on the second floor is mine and Edie’s favored location, backdropped with enough nonchalant chatter and cup-clicking while removed enough to be less affected. If you work best in silence, this isn’t the place for you. If you can work with din, this is prime real estate. The wi-fi is free, but isn’t available on the weekends until after 6, said Gianfranco with a shrug. (Good thing my computer automatically tuned me into the wi-fi from next door’s Café Epi when they turned it on at around 4:30! Nice.) Outlets are available on the right wall of the café on both the first and second floor.

My ultimate review of Caffe del Doge? Love. It is certainly a treasure of University Avenue. A track from “Amelie” is now playing, i.e. the world approves of my ruling.

And now my “EASTASN181K: Korean Economy” becons! I’m kind of scared. But I’m excited. Because this was my very first blog post. (YAY!!!) And I just asked Gianfranco how to spell his name, and I guessed correctly. And he just asked for the url of this blog to tell Claudia, presumably the owner, and to read this himself!!!

Today is a day of days. I hope yours was as joyful as mine, and I wish you all a wonderful beginning of February. First days are always special.




Mon-Thu 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Fri-Sat 7 a.m. – 12 a.m.

Sun 8 a.m. – 11 p.m.