After summer travel and departure of a house guest, I was ready for some caffeine and quiet time to contemplate our next adventures. I stopped by Rosetta Roasting in Livermore to regroup.
The signage at the coffee shop shows “Espresso Rosetta.” This alternate name represents a stronger than usual connection to the coffee meaning of rosetta, an Italian word for the leaf pattern popularized for latte art.
Seattle-based David Schoemer, the uncle of co-owner Mercy Schneider, is credited as an originator of latte art in the U.S. He also developed the “Schoemer method” of espresso preparation which minimizes the bitterness inherent in coffee. Long time coffee aficionado Schneider and her co-owner, husband Jeremy Schneider, trained at Schoemer’s Espresso Vivace cafes in Seattle before opening Rosetta Roasting in 2015.
Mercy sets the scene for their Italianate café with a wall-sized painting of a scene featuring coffee service from an Italian comic opera. After Schoemer closed one of his shops, he gave Mercy the art he had commissioned from a well-known American artist. Another wall is taken up with a artfully drawn, graphic rendering of the shop’s many coffee, tea and house made soft drink options.
Rosetta Roasting closes at 2:00 p.m. when most Italian cafés no longer serve steamed milk drinks. Yet many Italian coffee shops re-open later as bars. Over the years Mercy had invited friends for conversation and coffee after hours. During the pandemic, she applied for a liquor license and launched Nightcaps at Rosetta in 2022. On Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday nights Rosetta Roasting transforms into a lounge with table service, coffee and a full bar.
Taking advantage of their downtown location in an older building, Mercy curates a vintage style décor for the main rooms and retail nook. The mural and wooden back bar evoke another era. The repurposing of materials such as coffee bean scoops as coffee lid holders point to the Schneiders’ sustainable mission. At first, they purchased syrups for flavored drinks. By making their own sugared and sugar free, Stevia-based syrups, Mercy noted they eliminated a dumpster of glass bottles every week.
The staff roast the proprietary blend of beans from Ethiopia, Guatemala and Malabar in house. Sold at the shop and online, the blend, labeled Dolce, implies a sweeter, less bitter coffee.
Cortados Truffles with six ounces of steamed breve (half and half) are a Rosetta specialty. The truffle tag refers to the sweeteners in the drink. You can customize or pick from four standard versions such as Mercy’s onetime favorite with raspberry flavored syrup and white chocolate sauce.
I chose the Nicco Cortado Truffle with orange flavored vanilla syrup spiked with cinnamon. The cortado, though sweeter than my usual coffee, was a pleasant, one-shot change. For a nosh, I chose a not-too-rich, house made onion and bacon quiche.
Staff pour coffee into thick porcelain cups. When asked why, Mercy said, “The rationale combines sustainability—less paper waste—and flavor. You don’t realize how much of the flavor of ‘coffee’ in paper is wet cardboard. Also, latte art is better enjoyed in a porcelain cup.”
The day clientele of friends, students, and workers evolves into date nights and adult groups for Nightcaps. Every Thursday Nightcaps experiences a Tiki Takeover. During a recent visit, the soft melodic backdrop of oldies added to the tiki ambiance. The song “Yellowbird” transported me to New Orleans where I experienced my first taste of tiki—a Yellowbird cocktail with rum and crème de banana liqueur. Others recalled the song was a parents' favorite.
Served by Mercy wearing parrot earrings, cocktails arrived with carefully selected ingredients, garnish and glassware. The lemon wedge garnish for the Jungle Bird carried a miniature toucan bird.
Our top drink was the Ramos Gin Fizz with an ideal amount of foam puffed up on top. A complex drink with multiple ingredients including egg white which requires a long, vigorous shake, the Nightcaps version benefited from Jeremy’s engineering background. The drink arrived promptly with a citrus-scented cap reminiscent of lemon-lime meringue pie.
From the menu of coffee cocktails, my husband applauded the Cinnamon Whiskey Cocktail, a latte made with a shot of Jameson Irish whiskey, but he’ll order one with double espresso next time. We ordered a savory bacon pizza made in Florence topped with fresh arugula and shared a tasty pistachio-ricotta cake from the list of French and Italian imported food items.
Nightcaps’ other special events, Flapper Fridays and Swanky Saturdays, are held monthly. I may throw a rarely used scarf over my shoulders and head over for a Lady Grey, an Earl Grey tea-infused gin sour.
Next daytime visit, my caffeine-craving husband may ask about the secret menu of flavored coffee. I may sample an iced cold brew bruja, Spanish for “witch,” to jump start the upcoming autumn season.
Editor's note: "Tri-Valley Foodist" is a new blog for Embarcadero Media by Pleasanton-based culinary writer Deborah Grossman.