In Italy, coffee is a daily ritual. Mornings are greeted with cappuccino and pastry. A caffè macchiato acts as an afternoon pick-me-up. And espresso is a drink regularly enjoyed after dinner.
Vendetta Coffee Bar, which is slated to open to the public late next week at 7613 W. State St., will pay homage to that culture, offering guests a taste of the traditional coffee houses found in cities across Italy.
Behind the new venue are partners Bill Haley, Tommy Orlando and Tommy Orlando Jr., three friends who shared a vision for a coffee bar that would offer Milwaukeeans an opportunity to share their appreciation for Italian coffee and culture.
Old World charm
Walk into Vendetta and you’ll find a space that speaks as much to history as it does to the new concept it houses.
The appeal of the space, notes Tommy Orlando, was its old world charm, which comes in spades thanks to features like the original tin ceiling, exposed cream city brick walls and the ornate Brunswick bar, which dates back to 1906.
The space was also nearly turn-key for the partners, who did little more than repaint the walls (from green to black), replace the green tile around the bar with slate, and resurface the tabletops for the black-based hightop tables. Guests will also find photographs on the walls which pay homage to Italian coffee houses, including the historical Cafe Pedrocchi in Padua, which dates back to 1839.
A place to rediscover espresso
They are cafes which helped to form and expand Orlando’s view of, and appreciation for espresso.
“Most people see espresso as being a dark, strong roast with lots of bitterness and smokiness,” he says. “In Italy it’s intense, but very smooth and it ends on a decidedly sweet note. It’s more drinkable, but it still stands up to milk in other drinks.”
Orlando, who lived in Italy for six months and now makes annual trips to Padua, says it was his experiences in Italy which changed his perception of coffee.
“My coffee experience before I went to Italy was an iced caramel cappuccino from Starbucks,” he says. “But spending time there changed everything. And when I came back, I looked around Milwaukee and there was nothing like it here. Everything here is an Americanized version of what you get in Italy.”
In turn, he began roasting coffee at home. Ultimately, he came up with a blend that he loved, that reminded him of the rich smooth espresso he drank in Italy. That blend became the model for the custom Vendetta espresso blend (made through a contract with a local coffee roaster), which will be served at the coffee bar.
On the menu
Each cup of espresso served at Vendetta is pulled from a Nuovo Simonelli espresso machine which has been manually calibrated to produce a cup with the appropriate balance of flavor. And that espresso will form the base of most drinks behind the bar.
Options will include standards like cappuccino, the classic espresso beverage comprised of equal parts espresso, milk and foam (pictured above), along with the macchiato (espresso topped with foam); the Americano (espresso and hot water); and the macchiotone, Italy’s version of the cortado.
To accompany, there will be traditional Italian pastries like freshly baked cornetti (plain, chocolate or almond), sfogliatelle (flaky pastry filled with ricotta), and bomboloni (Italian doughnuts), along with cookies made by Chef Travis Martinez of Sugar Studio.
Guests will also find specialty drinks like the shakerato, featuring sweetened espresso shaken with ice (pictured below) and the macchino, a drink from Torino, Italy that traditionally begins with a Nutella-lined cup with espresso drawn into it that’s topped with whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Vendetta’s version of the drink will feature chocolate hazelnut syrup (comprised of 60% hazelnut) created by Dan Bieser of Tabal Chocolate in lieu of the Nutella.
Orlando says they will also offer V-60 pour-overs using single origin coffee sourced from Ryan Hoban of Interval, along with drip coffee for those who’d prefer it.
San Pellegrino, freshly squeezed Valencia orange juice, San Benedetto peach iced tea, Italian drinking chocolate and Rishi teas will also be available.
Of course, clement summer and fall afternoons and evenings will be the perfect time to enjoy Vendetta's selection of Italian wines, Amber lager from Italy’s Birra Menabrea and local craft brews from breweries including Explorium, Enlightened and Company Brewing.
To go alongside, Vendetta will also offer savory bites, including charcuterie platters, piadina (grilled Italian wraps); panini and focaccia.
Once open, Vendetta’s hours will be Monday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.