Café Etrusca (Roma Norte)

Knowing that Arturo Hernandez, my Mexican coffee guru, owns Café Etrusca made me assume it would be the ultimate experience in the DF. There I go setting high expectations again. Seriously, I need to stop doing this because it places the merchant on a pedestal—a place no merchant wants to be when it’s for no solid reason.

Café Etrusca was easy to find, which was a breath of fresh air since my last few destinations were logistically tricky. Upon arrival, I was happy to find shaded outdoor seating on a relatively quiet street. I was definitely taking one of those tables.

The interior seemed a bit dark, and two female baristas stood chatting behind the counter. I greeted them before they greeted me (uh-oh). I won’t fault them for not being able to understand my iffy español, but I was a bit surprised that my words, “Mi amigo hablame que su café esta delicioso,” fell on deaf ears (Translation: My friend told me your coffee is delicious). Even when I finally managed to get my point across, their response was nonplussed. Still, I went ahead and ordered a double espresso to enjoy outside.

It was a beautiful pull. Deep sienna brown, a heavy coating of billowy thick froth. A close look reminded me of Grandma’s hearty stew on a cold winter day, or the mystical detail of a Hubble telescope photo. The nose was quiet, less bold that the color implied. Its wingman, a shot glass topped with sparking water. Great touch.

And the taste? Well, the taste was interesting. My gustatory memory just knew that a touch of the tongue would send off a million deliciously bitter rockets, filling my mouth with the comfortable heat of a full-throttled pull. But on the contrary. Instead it had an amazingly clean finish. It definitely tasted like a muscular espresso, but it didn’t have anything to prove. Not a hint of bitterness, not a brag of bite. Totally earthy, as if sugary wood could be consumed in the form of a warm drink. Simply stunning.

After a few minutes the shots thickened, which made me tap my lips together. More flavors erupted, and after my final sip I leaned back, drunk, as it were, on world class espresso. I basked in the moment for a spell, then gathered up my cups and went back inside.

The double cost 28 pesos (about US$1.50), and if they weren’t my sixth and seventh shots of the day, I’d have gone for more. Which leads me to my lasting memory of Etrusca. Things hadn’t start perfectly, but the fabulous shots erased my initial ho-hum feeling. But it all came rushing back as an employee rang me up without saying anything, without acknowledging the fact that I was curiously looking around (for bags of beans to bring home). She and the others basically did their job. They took my money and sent me on my way. But arguably they missed an opportunity to wow me, and make another sale.

Not sure how to categorize Etrusca. If I was seeking only good espresso, I most certainly got one. But if it was an experience I hoped for, they fell short. Tough to be amazing when amazing is no longer good enough.

So yes, go to Etrusca. Go and drink a unique and powerful shot or two. Sit outside and watch the world go by. But don’t be like me and arrive with unfair expectations. Because if you do, a day later you’ll forget about the whole thing—and it’ll be all your fault.

LOCATION: Durango #272, Local B, Col. Roma Norte


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