I should have known Corrado Palmieri would not stop at perfecting the pastries and gelato, but take the final element as well to its next logical amelioration and conclusion.
In December, Palmieri, the owner of the Italian café that bears his name in the Dallas Farmers Market shed, unveiled a project he had been working on for over a year. “An expansion,” I thought, somehow imagining his coffee shop inhabiting the entire end of the cavernous hall. A tantalizing thought. No, though the turning of the new leaf had required renting commercial space in North Dallas to house the engine of the transformation.
The man behind this place of morning loiterings, who perfected his pastries by returning to his hometown of Lecce and learning for a year from a baker there—those custard-filled pasticciotto are specific to his hometown. Whose hazelnut and pistachio gelato rival any in Italy (made with Sicilian pistachios; Piedmont hazelnuts; no skimping). This is the man now roasting his coffee.
“I found a small, local roaster” near Milan, he says. “I asked him if he could teach me.”
Coffee he knew, and had been buying a custom espresso blend made for him by a roaster in Puglia, Italy. But not the roasting of green coffee, the roaster itself—the machine—or the administrative work it would take to find a locale zoned to operate it.
The flash apprenticeship commenced. The small, local roaster in Milan was for espresso.
The roasters in Virginia and Chicago were for drip. “Because I wanted to learn about this American type of coffee,” Palmieri says. A different animal. Different roasts, different needs. And who on earth was going to find him a drip-roast guru in Italy? He needed to study at the source.
Intensive training sessions were followed by Skype sessions (cross-Atlantic). September through December were dedicated to tinkering with blends, roasting in small batches.
His goal over the past year has been to gain knowledge. “Experience takes time,” he says. “But I tried to get knowledge from experts who had been doing this for decades. And me trying to be a good student.”
For someone obsessed with quality, the whole proposition was a risk, he admits.
“[But] that’s what I wanted from the beginning,” he says: to control quality from the ground up. That means doing things from scratch, A to Z, pasticciotto to espresso.
(You can read more about how Palmieri came to making pastry–as opposed to continuing in investment banking–in a feature I wrote for the August 2016 issue of the magazine here.)