Business perking up at new coffee house

By: Art Garcia
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Beer — and no Fear? Gourmet coffee, regular wine tasting, panini, quiche, a new oven for pizza and focaccia bread, free Wi-Fi, plus live music. Sounds good, probably tastes good, but can a coffee shop succeed where a coffee shop didn’t? Despite nearly empty retail and office surroundings at the once proud La Borgata Tuscan-style commercial village adjacent to the Raley’s center, the Calvillo family of El Dorado Hills believes it can make a success of its recently opened Carpe Diem Coffee, located at 3907 Park Drive in EDH. That’s the new coffee house that in late November replaced what had been Sartory, also a Wi-Fi coffee gathering place. If Sartory didn’t fly with a similar theme and menu, how do the Calvillos figure to put wings on Carpe Diem (meaning “seize the day” or “enjoy the moment” in Latin)? Actually, said Louis Calvillo, paternal head of the family who came off seven years retirement after a career as a Bay Area contractor to join the Carpe Diem effort, “We’ve kept the place essentially the same but with a little more consistent quality and services. We started coming to Sartory two years ago as customers. It was our hangout, for me and my wife, Amabelita.” That was after the couple moved to Serrano, of course. There was some concern, if not fear. “At first there definitely was but I was fairly positive we’d be able to draw a regular crowd,” said their son, Louis Jr., 36. “The area didn’t want to see the coffee shop leaving. We got its regular customers back, plus new regulars.” In its second month in business, Carpe Diem has broken even, he said, and that has helped feed ambitions of opening a second store, possibly in the Livermore-Pleasanton-San Ramon-Dublin area of the East Bay. Louis Jr. runs the day-to-day operation, but mom and dad have plenty of say in planned changes and how the business is run. There will be a focus on gourmet coffees, imported beers and organic gluten-free pastries, a specialty, some of them baked by Momma Calvillo, a native of Spain. Her husband was born in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Wine tastings of local-area wines are on tap, probably for Friday nights, and beer is on tap all the time, including such labels as Horizons, Rip-Roaring Red and IPA, with Guinness on the way. No big-brand soft drinks but “every kind of Italian soda,” said Louis Jr. There’s live music featuring In Full Swing Wednesday evenings; acoustic guitarist Steve McLain appearing three Fridays a month; and Friends, a trio of two acoustic guitarists and a vocalist, performing on the second Friday of the month. Louis Jr., who recently moved to El Dorado Hills from Sacramento and is a classically trained pianist, oversees the music. He will “eventually” perform at Carpe Diem. He owned recording studios for about 15 years. About 80 percent of the wait staff are musicians. “They don’t play here yet but will start recording performances,” he said. “This will never be a restaurant,” he promised. “Just a coffee shop.” Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday and Tuesday; 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday, and 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, give them a call at 933-3112.