This chain of Venetian cafés opened in 2003 and has since spread to areas as far and wide as Budapest, Buenos Aires, and Tokyo. This Palo Alto location opened in December 2005 in the same exact location as the former Torrefazione Italia. They haven't changed the site's layout much at all: great counter window seating, a casual place to lounge upstairs, and limited sidewalk seating. The only difference is that they made the tight walkway from front to back even worse by adding shelves of risotto, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, moka pots, and packaged and whole bean coffee. The walls are bright orange with large prints of Venice, and there's a real "Sons of Italy" expatriate feel here: there are often native Italian speaking expats chatting it up with the manager.
The café still uses dual two-group Elektras that may have been left behind by Torrefazione Italia, except they use multiple bean dispensers and Mazzer grinders to handle the variety. And what a variety: they offer espresso bean choices of Rosso, Nero, Blue decaf (all $1.50) -- and single origins in the form of base ($1.80), premium ($2.30), and gourmet ($3.50). Add 50% for a doppio. (The cappuccinos and macchiatos come in similar choices.) The Rosso is more of a straightfoward blend, with a healthy medium brown crema and a robusta balance in the BFG Porcellane cups (they use SchönhuberFranchi cups for their cappuccinos). The gourmet single origin when I visited was from Galapagos San Cristobal Island, which had a thinner, paler crema and a touch more sweetness over the Rosso. My favorite was their premium single origin Guatemala Huehuetenango San Pedro Necta (rated here): a Slow Food Association collaboration with a weaker crema (expected for single origin) but a brilliant, candy-like sweetness. As for milk drinks, the microfoam - like their latte art - is just OK, though the flavor is quite good and rich.