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February 3, 2007 / Park Slope / Perspective / PS … I Love You

Seattle on Seventh Avenue

for The Brooklyn Paper
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OK, it’s one thing to like coffee, but how many coffee bars (four), coffee-selling bodegas (eight), diners (two), takeout-food places (two), bagel stores (one) and bakeries (three) do we need in the few blocks from Eighth to 15th streets between Eighth and Sixth avenues?

Wait, don’t answer before you hear the news: One more place is coming to the Slope’s Coffee District. Work has already begun to transform a non-descript, mid-block, ground-floor apartment on Seventh Avenue into Café Eleven, which will open in March.

Do we need yet another java joint? You decide: The place is across the street (no, literally across the street) from Naidre’s, just steps away from the Tea Lounge, and a few blocks from the newcomers, Red Horse Cafe on Sixth Avenue and 12th Street, and Cafe Regular on 11th Street, just off Fifth Avenue.

Owners John (decaf with milk) and Marianne (milk with two Equals) Votto are not deterred. They may be the newest mug on the block, but they say they won’t be the last, either.

“We are all different,” said John Votto, admitting that he and his wife have never ventured into the food and beverage service before. “There is room for us, and we have a big garden.”

In addition to the garden, the Vottos said Café Eleven has a few other things going for it: For one, the Vottos are holding onto hope that their location — they’re on the east side of Seventh Avenue, while the Tea Lounge, Naidre’s, the Bagel Hole and at least two of the bodegas are on the west side — will attract pedestrians who can’t be bothered to cross the street to get their caffeine fix.

More important, Café Eleven will sell only coffee drinks made with Illy beans. Believe me (steamed milk, one sugar), that’s a selling point; Illy is simply the best.

Then again, who picks his drug by the quality alone (if so, we’d all be going to Russo’s, buying bags of Taza D’Oro and brewing it at home)? People go to Naidre’s for the breakfast burritos more than her coffee from Manhattan’s Porto Rico. People go to the Tea Lounge because of the vibe and the farmer friendly shade-grown, fair trade organic Benbow coffee from Maine. People go to their local bodega if they want to pay less than $3 for a cup of joe (and aren’t picky).

Naidre Miller (steamed milk and a half-sugar), owner of the shop that bears her name, wished her new competitors well, but added, “I don’t understand why anyone would attempt a business in such a saturated market.”

Like Miller, I wish the Vottos well, of course. There may, indeed, be room for their great Italian brew and their nice garden. But you won’t see me there after the morning rush. Too much coffee keeps me up at night!

The Kitchen Sink

Help Slope author David Shenk (“The Forgetting”) write his next book about “the genius in all of us.” It’s a bit ironic for a guy who once wrote a book about “Data Smog,” but Shenk is nonetheless blogging all the research for his new tome at geniusblog.davidshenk.com. In other Shenk news, his latest book, “The Immortal Game,” just went in for another printing. …

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the chair of the House Small Business Committee, had breakfast with the Chamber of Commerce folk at the Grand Prospect Hall the other day. She says she’ll cut taxes and help employers get health care for their workers. At least we got a free breakfast. …

Our spies spotted young adult book legend Libba Bray (“Rebel Angels”) working through some serious writer’s block at the Tea Lounge the other day. She takes her coffee with Half and Half and one sugar. …

The kindergarten at PS 107 is lice-free, our spies tell us. “Lady Bug” Shaina Brown inspected all the kids’ heads last week and gave the youngsters a clean bill of hair. Only a few fifth graders had the bugs. …

We’d like to wish our neighbor, Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, well as she resigns to take a job at CUNY. But she never fixed the pothole in Red Hook that swallowed our editor a year ago, so let’s just say CUNY’s loss is our gain.

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