Coffee bar brings ‘Little Italy’ to downtown Evanston

Breanne Gilpatrick

The Daily Northwestern

Christopher Casas hopes to “have a little bit of Italy in Evanston” when his downtown Evanston coffee shop opens by the end of this week.

Casas said he plans to open The Italian Coffee Bar, 1549 Sherman Ave., in a few days after a final cleaning of the interior. The shop originally was scheduled to open in January but city permit regulations delayed the process.

In addition to serving 24 varieties of coffee from around the world and 12 types of teas, The Italian Coffee Bar will offer 12 to 15 types of Italian cookies and 12 flavors of gelato.

Casas, co-owner of the shop, said he always has wanted to own a business, and a trip to Italy last year inspired him with the idea that an authentic Italian coffee bar would be perfect.

As he leaned on the tiled countertop on the bar at the front of his shop, Casas said he modeled the coffee bar after some of the shops he visited in Italy, rather than copying the coffee shops popping up throughout the United States.

“In Italy coffee bars aren’t these huge monstrous places,” Casas said. “You come in the morning for your espresso or your little sweet thing. You come back in the afternoon to get your latte, and that’s what it’s meant to be.”

In fact, Casas said the burnt orange and marigold yellow walls replicate colors he saw in a shop in a town in Italy. He said he plans to hang a photo of that shop and eight other photos from his trip to Italy in the bar as “conversation pieces.”

Casas started work on The Italian Coffee Bar in August, doing most of the carpentry and tile work himself.

After hours of work researching design and business details and options, Casas said he chose the warm colors on the walls, the dark wood furniture and the wrought iron wall hangings to give the shop the rustic feel of Italy.

“The look of it is exactly what I was looking for — a warm, soft, inviting environment,” he said.

Lisa Blaeser, Casas’ wife, co-owns the shop and helps finance and support the venture, but she said most of the credit goes to Casas. Blaeser won’t be working in the shop because she is a lawyer in Chicago, but she said she plans to spend as much time there as possible.

“I think it turned out really great,” said Blaeser, a 2001 graduate of NU’s Law School. “I’m really impressed with what he did. I love the tiled counters and tables.”

Although she loves the interior, Blaeser said her favorite thing about the shop is the gelato.

Weinberg junior Neeta Varshney said she also will be drawn to the shop for the desserts.

“I had (gelato) like three times a day when I was in Rome,” Varshney said. “I would go just for the gelato.”

Varshney also said she is concerned there may be too many coffee shops in Evanston already.

But Medill senior Katie Koss said she is looking forward to trying a different coffee shop.

“It’s kind of nice to find a different study spot,” Koss said, “because Kafein is always packed and loud.”