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December 28, 2005-January 3, 2006

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Live Feed - Stett Holbrook

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Starbucks Beware

By Stett Holbrook

UNIVERSITY AVENUE in Palo Alto has more than its fair share of cafes, but the recent opening of CAFFÈ DEL DOGE is big news for coffee aficionados. The cafe is based in Venice, Italy, and has locations elsewhere in Italy as well as in Budapest and Tokyo. The Palo Alto location is the first in the United States. The Italian food guide GAMBERO ROSSO named the cafe one of Italy's best.

Caffè del Doge baristas are not your typical coffee jockeys. To train local baristas in the proper techniques, the cafe will host three Venetian baristas for three months, and a visit by the world champion barista is planned for later in the year. In a unique exchange program, employees of the Palo Alto cafe will be sent to Venice to study traditional methods of espresso preparation under the mentorship of Caffè del Doge principal BERNARDO DELLA MEA.

In addition to premium coffee, the cafe will serve a menu of cichetti (traditional Venetian small plates), tramezzini (Italian hors d'oeuvres) and panini. The cafe's wine selection comes from the personal vineyard of Italian Count EMO CAPIDALISTA, whose wines have won awards and praise from wine critics like ROBERT PARKER, LUCA MARONI and LUIGI VERONELLI.

As a member of the SPECIALTY COFFEE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA and the SLOW FOOD movement, Caffè del Doge adheres to strict preparation standards and environmentally sustainable ethics. Through its I BAMBINI DEL CAFFÈ foundation, the cafe provides educational, health and nutritional services to disadvantaged children in countries heavily dependent on coffee production.

The cafe is located at 419 University Ave., Palo Alto.

EVEN MORE INDIAN: The South Bay is blessed with scores of Indian restaurants, but most serve either broad-based northern or southern cuisine. A few, however, specialize in regional variations of the gastronomically diverse country. If you're interested in Indian food that's a bit more off the beaten path, two new Indian restaurants are worth checking out.

SOUTHERN SPICE opened in October on El Camino Real in Mountain View in the space formerly occupied by SWAGAT. Southern Spice specializes in Andhra food, a spicy, largely vegetarian cuisine from the southern Indian state of Andra Pradesh. Pickles, particularly mango pickles, are an Andhran specialty as are biryani (rice) dishes.

Also in Mountain View, AMBER INDIA has opened AMBER CAFE. Amber India is often touted as one of the best Indian restaurants in the Bay Area with branches in both Mountain View and Santana Row. Amber Cafe is a more inexpensive restaurant that focuses on fast and fresh Indian food. The menu ranges from small appetizers, or chaat, to wraps, salads, whole wheat pizzas and a few tandoori specials. Prices top out at $10.

Southern Spice is located at 2700 W. El Camino Real, and Amber Cafe is at 600 W. El Camino Real.

EFFIE'S CALLS IT QUITS: EFFIE'S RESTAURANT AND BAR has been owned by the SKYLLAS FAMILY since 1984, but they have decided to retire and have sold the restaurant to new owners. Dec. 31 will be the last day of the Campbell restaurant under its original ownership. The new owners, however, will keep the restaurant's name and menu.

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