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Tazza takes flight with Italian-style coffee shop

By Josh Koerner

De Pere’s downtown dam district – running along Main Street and North Broadway – boasts a beautiful vista along the Fox River lined with small local shops housed in historic buildings.

While nights echo with merriment from its many bars and restaurants, mornings belong to the coffee shops.

With a cafe on nearly every corner – some in business more than 20 years – it can be hard to stand out.
Nardi’s Affogato Bar learned this the hard way as its gelato-based coffee drinks failed to catch on as quickly as hoped.

Since its closure, a shop simply dubbed Tazza hopes to fill the void and keep delicious Italian-style coffee flowing..

Tazza takes its name from the Italian word for “cup.”

However, the plural may be a more appropriate name as sampler flights of drinks set them apart from most coffee shops.

Apart from rotating seasonal latte flights, which are currently focused on the flavors of fall, Tazza also uses flights to highlight the flavors of their hand-crafted lemonades and teas.

In fact, with winter just around the corner, they promise to have hot cocoa flights in rotation soon as well.
The latte flights can be especially handy considering the simplicity of the rest of Tazza’s drink menu.

With little in the way of specials or signature drinks, the list of classic coffee and espresso preparations with choice of milk and flavorings can seem a bit intimidating for those still trying to find their “usual” order.

In these instances, I have found Tazza’s staff to be very accommodating both with helpful suggestions and patient smiles.

Snacks, soups and sandwiches
Mirroring the drink menu, Tazza’s food and snack offerings also keep themselves short and sweet.

For breakfast items, they feature rotating flavors of “egg bites,” a few croissant-centric pastries, and a couple of protein options.

Italian sandwich

However, it’s their sandwich and soup options that pique my interests.

Tazza’s soups have quickly become one of my favorite weekly surprises.

On my first excursion, I was able to catch a lobster bisque.

The deep, oceanic flavor was divine with sweet high notes from the meat and a quick bite of tomato.

The bisque was well-blended, giving a pleasant, velvety texture to the rich soup.

The following week, I was greeted with a second creamy soup, this time built around chicken and poblano peppers.

The sweet earthiness of a roasted poblano along with its mild kick have cemented the pepper as a personal favorite.

Together with the savory chicken and cream, the pepper’s flavors were able to shine beautifully.
I am also quite taken with the taralli these soups employ.

Resembling overstuffed tortellini, these traditional Italian crackers taste like small banquet breadsticks and stay remarkably crisp in soup even when crumbled.

Now, I couldn’t just go on raving about soups when there are sandwiches to discuss.

Luckily, though, Tazza made that job easy for me.

Their menu lays out two options for sandwiches: a bold pesto chicken and a savory italian.

The pesto chicken features thinly sliced chicken breast with a lovely basil-forward pesto adding sweeter, minty notes.

The sandwich is then garnished with fontina, lettuce, and tomato, completing that lovely Caprese trifecta.
In my experience, it is best served warm as I like a bit of melt to my fontina.

While I do enjoy the fresh feel of the pesto chicken, it is the Italian sandwich that justifies Tazza’s limited menu in my eyes.

After all, it is senseless to brainstorm new dishes when you have already reached perfection.

The base of the sandwich includes a classic pairing of genoa, mortadella and coppa over that familiar fontina cheese.

As the sandwich is warmed, those succulent dried meats release their oils to be absorbed by the porous ciabatta bun that houses them.

The bun is then brushed with a blend of Italian seasonings, and the meat is topped with tomato, lettuce and a sharp but sweet balsamic reduction.

The result is absolutely heavenly, though you may want to grab some extra napkins if you are eating on the go as things can get a bit messy.

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