Caffe UmbriaThere is a particular scene in the animated film Ratatouille where Anton Ego, the dour food critic, takes a bite of Remy’s Ratatouille dish and is transported decades back to his youth on the countryside where his mother is feeding him a beautiful, comforting bowl of the same. I can empathize with this because many of my favorite things in my life have some root in fond recollection. You may be able to assert even that our lives are a search every waking moment for a happier day all the while creating happy days to recollect in the distant future. Something as simple as food can be the strongest tether in respect to this phenomenon.

Upon walking into Portland’s Caffé Umbria, I was clubbed over the head by the jubilant blackjack. Like Anton Ego, I was transported to a time a decade and a half ago where, with the help of my future wife, I became privy to the café culture of not only Ilha Terceira in the Azores, Portugal, but to the café culture of Europe. This way of life exists only in isolated pockets across America and mostly in European dominated areas that have since been spoiled by highways and high-traffic roads. Luckily, though, here in Portland, arguably America’s most European city, we have the likes of Caffé Umbria.

Caffé Umbria is, at its base, a simple café: various coffee and espresso offerings, some alcohol, pastries, and light Italian fare. That’s all. While my café latte, double shot, was deliriously delicious (along with the sensually dark chocolate piece that came with it) and the varied sandwiches we tried were hearty and satisying, it was the atmosphere that caught my attention. From walking by the front windows and outdoor seating, overhearing the gathered group of men laugh while loudly discussing the calcio match that had just ended, to observing finely dressed people on a Sunday stand at coffee bar tables chatting in various accents, to smelling the silky aroma of fine espresso; this place has it right. Some how, some way, they have been able to capture that European sense of camaraderie, of living a slower life, and of savoring the moment in beautifully delicious ways. The warmth of the café’s colors and the slick and modern styling enhance both the lighting and the mood, seemingly urging conversation between even perfect strangers.

I’m not even sure I’ve come back from my journey, yet. I’m not even sure I will any time soon. It forces me to wonder if this is what it’s like to get stuck in a high. Times like this hold on to too small a portion of our attention and it just shouldn’t be that way.

I had a great day and it was completely the fault of Caffé Umbria.


I’ll be back soon for more.

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