Exterior of Tazza d'Oro. Photo by Brian Conway.

It took nearly 25 years, but Millvale is finally getting its Tazza d’Oro.

After graduating from Pitt in the early ’90s, Amy Enrico, a Millvale resident at the time, looked at buying a building next to Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery for her first coffee shop. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.

Eventually she settled in Highland Park, and in 1999, opened her flagship cafe on North Highland Avenue.

Now, a new Tazza d’Oro is scheduled to open September 1 in a former pharmacy in the heart of Millvale at the corner of Grant and North.

“It’s kind of amazing how life goes full circle,” says Enrico.

Tazza will serve as anchor tenant for the Millvale Community Development Corporation’s $1.5 million Bennett Station project. The project includes the Tazza d’Oro building at 524 Grant, two neighboring buildings at 220 North and 226 North, and a small adjacent parklet that is partially owned by the borough.

The project was financed in part by grants from the The Heinz Endowments, Hillman Foundation and an anonymous donor. Bridgeway Capital provided a bridge loan between grants. Originally scheduled to open last summer, the project ran into construction delays and a 50% cost overrun.

Tina Walker, president of the Millvale CDC, says that the project will be like a “heart transplant” for the core of the business district, adding that Millvale residents first identified a coffee shop as a priority during initial Ecodistrict planning in 2012.

Millvale CDC president Tina Walker (left) and Tazza d’Oro owner Amy Enrico (right). Photo by Brian Conway.
Millvale CDC president Tina Walker (left) and Tazza d’Oro owner Amy Enrico (right). Photo by Brian Conway.

“The community is so passionate about where they live,” says Enrico. “I’ve never experienced such support and excitement about us opening.”

The 2,000-square-foot coffee shop, designed by Bennett Station lead architect evolveEA, features retractable garage door windows, heated concrete floors and reclaimed wooden tables and chairs.  Enrico promises that “fresh, local, real food” will be available in the form of soups, salads, paninis and more.

A mosaic by artist James Simon graces the exterior of the building, and Red Star Iron Works designed and fabricated a pair of wrought-iron balconies for the second floor. Tazza will use that upstairs space to train employees; Enrico has already hired 16 Millvale residents to help run the shop.

“We’ve been fanatical about quality since the day we opened,” says Enrico. “It has been a dream for 10 years now to have a space dedicated to training so we don’t interrupt operations.”

North Avenue in Millvale as seen from the Tazza d’Oro building. Photo by Brian Conway.
North Avenue in Millvale as seen from the Tazza d’Oro building. Photo by Brian Conway.

Next door, the Millvale Studios artist community is still in limbo as insurance negotiations continue over a fire that gutted the interior of the property earlier this summer. The Millvale Studios building, at 226 North, is located next door to Ton Pottery, formerly of Lawrenceville.

Both Walker and Enrico credit the Millvale Borough Council for their support in seeing the project to fruition. Enrico gives particular credit to the long-time businesses like Pamela’s and Jean-Marc that helped lay the groundwork for the expanding main street.

“We’re here to help prop up what they started 20-some years ago,” she says. “We don’t want to come in and be some bourgeois coffee shop. We want it to be amazing coffee, but our goal is to create community.”

Brian Conway is a writer and photographer whose articles have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and local publications. In his free time, he operates Tripsburgh. Brian lives in the South Side.