Romeo's Coffee will open in the former Shakespeare & Co. location at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way.  Photo: Ted Friedman
Romeo’s Coffee will open in the former Shakespeare & Co. location at Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way. Photo, taken in June 2015 before the bookstore closed, by Ted Friedman

After sitting vacant for close to a year, the former location of Telegraph Avenue bookstore Shakespeare & Co. will see new light. Highly caffeinated light, that is.

Starting in June, a new coffee shop — Romeo’s Coffee — will begin to take shape. Its name was serendipitous, said owner Dino Micheletti. He had already ironed out the concept, which revolves around “lovers of coffee,” before visiting the location with Ito Ripsteen, who is managing the remodel of the building at 2499 Telegraph. “I went to meet with him and looked up and saw the Shakespeare sign,” he said. “I said to him, ‘Do you know what our name is? It’s Romeo’s Coffee.'” 

While it is being renovated, the former Shakespeare & Co. building is wrapped in a mural by Nigel Sussman. Photo: Ted Friedman

Micheletti said that he was excited to continue the Shakespeare theme, even if the connection is in name only. Instead of referencing literary names, the names of the coffee drinks will revolve around a theme of romance: “Straight to Heaven,” “Love Potion Number 9,” “Cupid’s Arrow” and the like.

Romeo’s, which will be next door to Telegraph stalwart Caffe Mediterraneum, will be divided up into two different ordering stations — one for pour-over coffee, which will feature around 20 different coffees, and one for espresso drinks. Most notably, all of the coffees will be given what Micheletti is calling a “caffeine rating system.” Each coffee will be labeled with a number from 00 to 03. The coffees will range from completely decaffeinated roasts to “those that will make you think, ‘Wait, is this even legal?'” said Micheletti.

Micheletti said this system is particularly geared towards the high numbers of students he expects to frequent the café. At most shops, he said, you’ll see signs for “light, medium and dark roasts, but people don’t really understand what that means. They often think that dark roast has the most caffeine, but it doesn’t. So we’re going to come at it a different way.”

Also on the docket for Romeo’s Coffee is a lineup of local pastries from Starter Bakery, as well as juices, bagels and sandwiches. Micheletti said he is focusing on keeping everything as local as possible. “Everything that we can get local we will,” he said. “We want to get things from neighbors, from people across the street, and [businesses] within the city of Berkeley.”

Romeo’s Coffee is a totally new venture for Micheletti. He spent his career working in real estate, and had been retired for seven years before beginning the Romeo’s project. “I didn’t think I was going to go into another business,” he said.

But he had been having conversations with a friend who works for Philz Coffee and they came up with the Romeo’s concept together. His friend has since moved on, but Micheletti has stuck with the project, and he hopes that the Berkeley location will be the first of many for Romeo’s.

Micheletti had initially been looking elsewhere for his first location, but he found himself being turned away because Romeo’s was not yet established. Berkeley, he said, was different. The City of Berkeley “liked that this would be our first location, that we were unique,” he said.

At first, Micheletti wasn’t sure about moving in, but he is now excited to be part of the changes that are going on throughout the city. “I’m really excited to come to Berkeley,” he said. “I hope that the city embraces us.”

Micheletti hopes that he will be finished with construction at the end of August, and to open up the first or second week in September. At that time, he plans to hold a grand opening day complete with free coffee for the community.

Shakespeare & Co closes after 51 years in Berkeley (06.03.15)

Romeo’s Coffee will be at 2499 Telegraph Ave. (at Dwight Way), Berkeley.

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...