A few months ago hundreds of Newtown residents rallied behind a Save Mocha Now campaign. The effort did not result in saving the coffee house from folding, but the owners of a new café in the same location have reaped the benefits.
During the six weeks of renovating the location, several people stopped by to lend their support.
"They stopped in to talk to us — not just to be nosy — some staying for 20 minutes to chat," Michael Landry said. "We couldn't get over it...We've only been open two weeks, and we already have regulars who come in every day."
Landry and his partner, Jerid O'Connell, worked to secure the location when they heard Mocha was letting its lease expire. The beautiful setting on the Pootatuck River in Sandy Hook center appealed to them, and the devoted fanbase supporting Mocha intrigued them.
The interior has been completely redesigned. Instead of the shabby chic coffeehouse feel Mocha offered, Demitasse is modern and sparse, furnished in dark woods and bright whites with shiny hardwood floors.
Demitasse is more of a café. When designing the menu, Landry searched extensively for high quality products to offer with the goal of bringing the best of the area together in this small space.
"Our vision was to have something other than coffee, some great, great product, and what's better than gelato?" he asked. "We had to go search for the best gelato. There aren't many out there. The ones you get in the grocery store taste like ice cream."
Landry found what we was looking for in a New Haven company, Gelato Giuliana, which brought in a chef from Italy to produce the frozen dessert. Demitasse bought a case from Italy to keep the gelato at the right temperature to maintain the consistency of the perishable dessert.
Breakfast items include Breugger's Bagels from Shelton, pastries from Ovens of France in Woodbury, and muffins baked on site.
Hot and cold lunch items are offered such as soups, sandwiches and salads. Hale and Hearty provides the soups, which Landry selected because he said they are made fresh each week. He buys bread from Wave Hill Bread in Wilton. A commercial oven will be installed by the end of the month, and then they will offer flatbread pizzas and homemade quiche throughout the day.
But what is a café without coffee?
"The coffee is outstanding. I don't want to sound egotistical, but it is," said Landry, who trained under master barristas in Italy and makes cappuccino and espresso in the traditional way. "We do it the hard way, but it's worth it."
The coffee beans for the brewed coffee come from Willoughby's and are roasted in New Haven. The house roast is described as mild but full-bodied.
He found an unlikely partner in O'Connell, who did not even like coffee before Landry converted him.
Just as he educated his partner about coffee, Landry is planning to offer in-house events to teach people how to make proper cappuccinos at home.
Landry and his wife have been in the wholesale side of coffee and espresso beans and machines, operating a business in Woodbury, but he had been wanting to get into the retail business. Newtown is helping make his dream a reality.
"This town really wanted this," Landry said. "They support local business. I'm blown away."