Mirko Cuculiza doesn’t just want to serve you an amazing cup of coffee at Cafetano, he wants to give you an experience that blends history, culture and all five senses.
“We are hardcore coffee people,” he says. “We respect coffee a lot and take it very seriously.”
The shop, which also will serve tea, smoothies, breakfast and lunch options, and desserts, will open Oct. 16 in the former Gaucho Parrilla Argentina space at 1600 Penn Ave. in the Strip District. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
When it comes to coffee, Cuculiza knows what he’s talking about.
He grew up on the Honduran coffee plantation that his father established in 1976. In addition to learning the ins and outs of cultivating coffee beans, Cuculiza immersed himself in books on the beverage, took classes and became a certified cupper, barista and roaster.
“I learned about coffee to help my father,” he says, adding that his mother’s Italian heritage also influences his work.
In June 2015, he opened the first of five Cafetano coffee boutiques in Honduras.
So how did this Central American company end up in Western Pennsylvania?
Cuculiza’s business partner, a local entrepreneur named Carl Allison, spent several weeks in Honduras and stopped at Cafetano for a bite and a fresh brew each day he was there. Amazed by the quality and consistency of the products, he convinced the owner to open a spot nearly 2,000 miles away in Pittsburgh.
Cuculiza thought the initial phone call was a joke and promptly hung up.
Allison persisted and the Cuculiza family is now acclimating to life in the Steel City, marveling at the diversity and beauty of its neighborhoods.
While renovation work continues on the building, the team is busy sampling local products to recreate their Honduran menu stateside. The Strip is the perfect place to cherry-pick the perfect healthy, high-end ingredients.
The coffee menu will feature drip coffee, espresso, cappuccino, lattes, cold brews and frappes. No corn syrup is ever used in the drinks. The coffee is brewed in such a way that you don’t even have to add sugar to taste the sweetness.
Patrons can choose from a wide range of coffee preparation methods, from AeroPress, French Press and Siphon to Chemex, Kalita and V60, which is a Japanese-style pour-over brewer.
Food offerings will include pastries baked in-house, wraps, toasts and paninis. The Il Mostro, made with Italian bread, prosciutto, salami, semi-soft cheese and Zotz spread, is a favorite, Cuculiza says.
Patrons can dine indoors in the cozy, 50-seat café or enjoy their orders on the patio. There will also be a window for takeout service. The business may expand upstairs and, if all goes according to plan, to other parts of Pittsburgh.
Cuculiza says folks who come inside will not only delight in the smell of fresh-brewed coffee, they’ll find the décor visually stimulating and educational, too.
Colorful murals created by husband-and-wife team Nick and Liz Stull illustrate the history of Honduras. The image of Francisco Morazán, a Honduran hero and president of the Federal Republic of Central America, graces an entire wall.
“Our first concern is quality,” Cuculiza says. “We want to give the people the best of us. We want to make magic.”