The high-ceilinged headquarters of Coffee Speed Shop, in a West Evanston warehouse, are largely empty now. But they’ll soon be filled with a 25-pound capacity coffee roaster and the scent of beans from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras.
Business partners Chris Casas and Marco Ferrarini, both Evanston residents, are getting ready to open a coffee roaster at 2000 Greenleaf St. this March. They plan to sell the coffee to local cafes as well as at a companion restaurant and café they’re also opening downtown at 1620 Orrington Ave.
“I’ve always wanted to roast,” says Casas, who previously owned two cafes in Evanston that have since closed, including The Italian Coffee Bar, at 1549 Sherman Ave. That cafe closed in 2010 and was replaced by The Other Brother Coffee House.
In fact, Casas and Ferrarini met through The Italian Coffee Bar. After Ferrarini moved to the Evanston 10 years ago to head the United States division of an Italian forklift company, he also became a regular at The Italian Coffee Bar.
“He was one of my best customers,” says Casas.
Over time, the two also became friends. Ferrarini raised the idea of opening a coffee roaster and café about a year ago, as the two were eating dinner together, smoking cigars and drinking grappa. Since Casteel Coffee went out of business a year ago, Coffee Speed Shop would be the only coffee roaster in town.
Casas says his company will focus on direct-trade beans, and he and Ferrarini are traveling to South America this week to meet with farmers there.
“We’re really about accountability,” he says.
Sitting behind his desk in the warehouse on Greenleaf Street, Casas picks up two 1950s-era coffee tins to explain how he came up with the name “Coffee Speed Shop.” A “speed shop” was a garage that souped up cars in the ’50s and ’60s, particularly in Southern California, where Casis grew up. The bold design aesthetic of that era is something he hopes to replicate in collector’s coffee tins as well as in the name of the coffee roaster.
Casas also has a very specific vision for La Macchina, the restaurant and café he plans to open on Orrington. That vision is taking shape at the warehouse on Greenleaf Street, where stacks of sheet metal, old wooden beams, welding equipment and other raw materials are in various stages of preparation.
For the tables, Casas is using a plasma cutter to torch through metal, cutting “A” frame legs from a wooden stencil. He plans to hang the café’s lighting from antique pulleys and beams found in a Tennessee barn, while old wooden rail carts on giant metal wheels will serve as low coffee tables.
A trip to Columbus, WI, netted him 100-year-old pine slabs from another barn, which he’s sanding down to turn into wide communal tables. The knots and whorls in the surface will remain.
“We’re letting the personality come through,” he says.
Casas’ personality will come through in the café, too, where he plans to display part of his collection of vintage Italian motorcycles. He imports the bicycles from Italy, and, as a hobby, races a 1968 Honda CL350 in vintage motorcycle races around the country. The sport is perhaps even more dangerous than racing cars.
“If you go down, you’re going to break something,” he says, admitting to suffering a few broken ribs himself.
La Macchina will serve Italian pastries, coffee and espresso drinks, as well as Italian small plates, including meats, cheeses and wines from Italy. He and Ferrarini plan to use recipes from Ferrarini’s grandmother, including recipes for homemade butternut squash tortellini and homemade tiramisu.
“Our tiramisu is the best I’ve ever eaten,” he says.
The partners also plan to serve weekend brunch with Benton’s Bacon, another Tennessee find, paired with European style breakfast dishes. They’re hoping to open the cafe in March or April.