May 25, 2010

Lido's Caffé: Great Coffee, Amazing Service As Barista Discovers a Cubano

Cubano, I said. Can you you make a Cubano? The last barista I asked said no. My hopes were low, but as this is a bustling cafe almost in hard knocks Chicago. I delivered my request recognizing one barista introduced me to it, and he was new the idea. It could happen. The possibility to do the miraculous always exists so long as those involve don't know it is impossible, I concurred with myself. Yes, maybe she can.

'She' was the enthusiastic, effervescent Dana, a barista at Lido's Caffe, I met while weekending and meeting a business contact. Delightful in all ways.

"What's that?" she said, pointing out she took seriously her role, and loved learning new coffee recipes. Can't recall hearing a barista inquire like this at a Starbucks.

I explained the easy way of making a Cubano: Two shots espresso, with a bag of sugar atop the ground beans before pulling, with a bit of whipped cream. There's a fuller, more complex way, but this would do well enough on a hot May day. I did not have much time.

"I'll try. Tell me how I do." She did, and I did, and I'm saying it again here.

Perfect. The intensity of the Lavazza beans used (and sold). (Not all Lavazza beans are equal: read my review of one choice.)

Nice Reversal, Compared to Judgmental Neighbor
Dana's positive view pleasantly contrasted, delivering so much better than the bitter person managing visitors at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace House around the block. She pointed out with horrid discrimination her distaste for the politics of Oberweis Dairy (buy from them just to show closed-minded people cannot suppress good ice cream or coffee). (Later, I did try Oberweis's ice cream, and found it equal to the best I have had.) My guess is she is against non-hormonal dairy products or possibly the free speech of an owner. I had been advised that Oak Park was unique in Illinois to be among the most free thinking, but not in this case. I, and my guest, turned away from the Hemingway Birthplace in disgust, and worked our way to the very delightful Lido's. In coincidental irony, Good Night, Good Luck (about Joseph  McCarthy's fearful anticommunist blacklisting) was on TV tonight. It would seem the ghost of Joe McCarthy lives on and receives unwitting guests at a prolific American author's home. 

I'm more equal opportunity than that. 2010, not 1950.

Back to My Cubano Espresso
Dana landed it. She landed it in her first try. Not that a Cubano is difficult, but she not only tried, but she tried with willingness, without pretension or guile. It does take the essential skill of making a good double espresso. Not all baristas can accomplish this. Dana did.

There really is a Lido, I learned, straight from Italy. That's his first name. Lido Petrucci. A real guy. No silly coffee shop affectations. Just a real guy trying to make a few bucks selling good coffee.

That he uses Lavazza (an Italian brand) made sense, and any coffee aficionado would agree he made the right decision. Outside of roasting his own beans, it is a dependable, high-end bean and brand. Local roasters might have freshness on their side, but not always consistency.

Big place, with a room in the back where bands often play. This night, a blues band was playing, but my time would end long before then. Too much sun bakes a Brockeim.

As I left, after lingering outside enjoying the air-borne brush of lilacs and a Venezuelan restaurant next door scenting my people watching, Lido himself offered (and I accepted) to take my cup.

Lido's offers more than coffee, but that's all I had. Gelato, pastries, some sandwiches and more, but that is left for another reviewer to discuss. Great service, great coffee. That's what I know Lido's offers.

When will I be here again? Only the wind knows, and I am from, and go, where it blows. But if I'm near this strange little town of freedom and folly, I will. However, for now, duties as king of Brockeimia require my services and time a long way from Dana's Cubano.

Lido's Caffé
122 North Marion Street
Oak Park, IL 60301
(708) 660-0060

(Disclaimer: The cafe did not know they were being reviewed until I was leaving.)

See an edited version for the Chicago Tribune's TribLocal.

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