Caffe Fresco: A Unique Breath Of Fresh Air

By Ian Nadeau

Atlantic News, Thursday, November 22, 2001

Volume 27, No. 46

[The following article is courtesy of the Atlantic News]

The owners of Caffe Fresco
{Photo above:} FRESCO FRESH—Caffé Fresco owners Cara Grasso and Sean Kelley are ready to serve you. Since opening five months ago on Lafayette Road in Hampton across from Funnybones Toys, Caffé Fresco has been a huge hit with the residents of Hampton. Their commitment to quality is evident in their delicious food and beverage offerings, If you have not yet had the pleasure, make a note to stop by Caffé Fresco on your way home from work sometime soon.
[Atlantic News Photo by Ian Nadeau]

HAMPTON — Caffé Fresco has truly been a breath of fresh air for the residents of Hampton. Fresh coffee, fresh pastries, fresh pasta and fresh bread are just a few of the reasons local patrons have had cause to rejoice lately.

When new customers first enter the unique new café, located on Lafayette Road, next to Marelli Square in downtown Hampton, they will immediately realize that this restaurant is unlike any other on the Seacoast. Embodying all the best qualities of both premium coffee shops and restaurants, Caffé Fresco is a welcome departure from the norm.

After opening their doors only five months ago [June 25, 2001], Caffé Fresco began serving customers who would come to frequent their restaurant with growing regularity. If a customer purchased a cup of their delicious, fresh-brewed coffee and one of their many fresh-baked muffins on their way to work, they were hooked. When a parent brought home some of the homemade pasta and fresh baked bread to serve at dinner that night, they would invariably return on a later night. In just a few short months, the exciting cafe has developed a very loyal customer base -- one it rightfully deserves.

“It’s been surprisingly good,” says co-owner Sean Kelley, who opened Caffé Fresco five months ago with his fiancée Cara Grasso. “A lot busier than I thought it would be.”

Kelley, a graduate of the Culinary Institute in New York, had opened Pasta Place after college and has worked for Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta and Sauces for the past eight years. He and Grasso have been a couple for three years and often entertained the idea of going into business for themselves. Recently, the two decided that it was finally time to go out on their own. Caffé Fresco is their dream realized.

“It was pretty scary at first, because we knew that there was nothing like this around, but at the same time we were wondering if Hampton is ready for something like this,” said Grasso.

Their gamble appears to have paid off. Customers looking for a change of pace have flocked to the cafe in search of the freshness indicative of their appellation.

“To have people waiting for us at six in the morning is kind of neat,” Grasso says of the customers who appear bright and early each day, eager to get a taste of the day’s new offerings.

Caffé Fresco certainly wasted no time catching on with the local community and this trend show no signs of abating. “I’m still in awe about the word-of- mouth snowball effect that’s gone on here,” says Kelley.

Although Caffé Fresco offers mainly a take-out menu, many have been drawn in by the stimulating environment found inside. The atmosphere is both relaxing and lively, customers will find it surprisingly easy to grow accustomed to. The air is always filled with the dual sensations of the soothing sounds of jazz music and the tempting aroma of fresh coffee. Customers-on-the-go will stop at the lounge, where they can sit on the couch with a coffee and watch their stock market or the morning news before work. Others will stop by later in the day and enjoy some peace and quiet while they read the newspaper.

“It’s funny, so many people have already built their routine around it,” notes Grasso.

With a breakfast selection that includes five different varieties of oversized muffins, six different croissants and fresh squeezed orange juice, it’s no wonder people have fit Caffé Fresco into their schedule. Their coffee is ground to order always available in a light, Seattle-style medium, and Italian dark blends. Flavored coffees vary from day to day; if you’re lucky you can still get your hands on some of the delicious pumpkin blend offered for the Thanksgiving season. After the holiday, customers will be able to sample an eggnog blend that is sure to get coffee drinkers in the mood for Christmas. Espressos, cappuccino lattes, mochas, and flavor shots for your coffee are also at your disposal.

At lunch time, consumers can choose from three freshly-made soups, two pasta salads and a smorgasbord of specialty sandwiches and salads. Kelly and Grasso, who can be found preparing the delicious meals each day, say that when it comes to making meals, quality is the top priority.

“The quality of our food is really important,” says Kelley. “It’s easy for us to put out good food, if the quality is really good. That’s our focus. We try to do what we do well.”

Their delicious take out menu has created a buzz. The fresh-baked garlic bread available by the loaf will never disappoint, while any of the pasta selections -- including Native Maine Lobster Ravioli, Wild Mushroom Ravioli, Shrimp and Roasted Garlic, and Grilled Chicken and Spinach — are sure to impress.

Caffé Fresco has been an unbridled success thus far, and the ambitious young owners aren’t finished yet. The cafe currently stocks Stonewall Kitchen products and may add other items of “comparable quality” as time goes on. A variety of gift baskets are on the way; meanwhile the owners continually experiment with the menu.

Caffé Fresco is located at 442 Lafayette Road and if you haven’t yet, have Caffé Fresco freshen up your day soon.

New hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 6 A.M. to 7 P.M. and Saturday & Sunday, 7 A.M. to 2 P.M. For additional information, call 926-0023.