Speaking of closed espresso places (how’s that for a smooooth segue?), I just found out that the big Capitol Hill location of Espresso Vivace will be closing for good this Sunday (July 13). The building they’re in is coming down to make room for a light rail station.
Those of you not obsessed with seeking coffee perfection may not know that Vivace is a very special place. David Schomer set out almost 20 years ago to perfect the art of espresso by injecting a healthy dose of science (he’s a metrologist by training). From the beans to the grinding method to the exact brewing temperature, Schomer has literally written the book on espresso (no disrespect to Illy). The results are just stunning. If you want your espresso to kick you in the pants with classic coffee flavor, this isn’t your place. But if you want to taste incredibly sweet chocolaty caramel notes you never knew coffee could have (along with plenty of straight-up coffee flavor), you can’t beat Vivace. And the milk… perfect micro-foam that feels smooth and rich and creamy in the mouth and complements the coffee. What’s more, Schomer has managed to wring every last bit of variation out of the process, save for the beautiful variety of latte art atop the drinks. Every cappuccino I’ve had at Vivace has tasted exactly the same as every other and that’s not a bad thing. It’s no wonder coffee geeks the world over make pilgrimages to Vivace.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Seattle is blessed with a plethora of really wonderful coffee places. Even out here in Wedgwood, we’re within an easy stroll of at least four places that can pull a shot to put most of the world’s baristas to shame. And those same coffee pilgrims also come to Seattle for Zoka and Victrola. But Vivace was doing this stuff almost 20 years ago! Sure, some of the New Garde might say Vivace isn’t what it once was–that the world of espresso coffee has passed them by. But every time you’re served one of those sublime drinks from the likes of Artigiano, Intelligentsia, Stumptown, Blue Bottle, or Javasti, you have David Schomer to thank. Starbucks deserves a lot of credit for the spread of mediocre espresso shops; Vivace deserves credit for the good ones.
Of course, Vivace isn’t going away. They’ve already opened a beautiful new store across the street from the flagship REI and they have a new Capitol Hill location coming at the end of the summer (and I suppose their walk-up location on Broadway is still there). But the original Roasteria was special. It’s not particularly close to home for us, yet before Charlie was born we used to made a weekly Sunday morning pilgrimage to that Vivace. The huge windows overlooking Cal Anderson Park gave the place this gorgeous light even on cloudy days. They had a bunch of toys and games in the back–right in front of a beautiful painting by Kurt Wenner–and we’d just sit and relax and enjoy the coffee and the experience while Henry played. I’ll really miss that place.