Those who know, return repeatedly. Those who don’t are missing out on a flavorful experience offered even in the sleepy wintertime in Greenport. Aldo’s Cafe is awake seven days a week, year round, with the aroma of fresh coffee, hospitality, rich tastes, and a picturesque view of the Mitchell Park waterfront.
Aldo Maiorana roasts, grinds, and fresh brews every cup of coffee served at the cafe. As he serves customers, he often talks about what makes a perfect coffee drink: the proper color of espresso, the ideal consistency of foam, or how his favorite, a macchiato, is just lightly stained with milk before it is topped with grated chocolate.
He will tell you what he finds unacceptable, too. Skim milk, for example. “Not a chance,” he said, when asked if he serves it, his Italian accent adding emphasis to the indignity of the suggestion. “It’s water . . . makes no sense.” His goal is to bring pleasure and satisfaction to his customers’ palates. “Otherwise, it’s not worth it,” he said.
“Decor, garnish . . . I don’t want it,” he said on Saturday afternoon. Standing by a new $11,000 espresso machine with unfinished Sheetrocked walls behind him, he said that it is not how expensive or fancy a restaurant is, how decorated a plate, or how large a portion of food that matters.
Taking a chunk of chocolate from a jar and placing it into a large red cup, he melted it with a steamer wand, demonstrating its consistency, but transferred it to a smaller cup before allowing a taste. “More is not better,” he said. He steamed organic milk and poured it over the melted chocolate, then encouraged a customer to sit down and enjoy it with a buttery, crunchy, pecan raisin scone.
Although he serves takeout coffee, as well, he draws the line at espresso. “It takes two minutes to drink it,” he said. “Why such a rush?” He also wondered about the American habit of walking around with a cup, “like a security blanket,” he said.
He tastes with his nose, he said, and communicates through food, as well as in several different languages. Originally from Sicily, he lived there until he was 9 years old and then in France for 18 years, where he worked for the commander of the French navy and owned a cafe. After his arrival in the States 34 years ago, he said he began to bake bread because he was disappointed with the choices he found.
Same with coffee beans. Now, after 26 years of roasting, he said, “I am very sure of what I do.” Starting with good coffee, like the organic beans he chooses from areas such as Guatemala, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Bali, Ethiopia, and Kenya, helps.
Mr. Maiorana, who said he was “probably the first small-batch roaster on Long Island,” began back when Greenport was a ghost town. He also owned a full-service restaurant and a sushi cafe in the village before scaling down to his current cafe that offers only coffee, scones, and biscotti. Bags of beans and ground coffee are also available there and online.
Loyal customers frequent the cafe not only for delicious coffee and decadent scones, but for Mr. Maiorana’s gentle spirit and gift for storytelling. As he sat to chat beside newly installed picture windows with a view of the village’s ice skating rink, he said, “kids love me,” a fact proved by a local woman who showed him a family portrait her daughter drew at school, which included him. Another customer approached his table to say, “your coffee made my holidays wonderful.”
Sometimes in summer, there is a 20-minute line for coffee. “People don’t mind,” he said. Even when Starbucks was across-the-street competition for a few years, there was still a line.
Aldo’s coffee is available at Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton. Aldo’s scones and biscotti can be found on the South Fork as well, at Hampton Coffee Company locations in Water Mill and Westhampton, where the scones are baked on the premises.
In Greenport, Aldo’s hours are not posted on the door, but his “when I come here and when I leave,” schedule means the shop is usually open until about 5 p.m., and his employees cover when he’s not on site, as they will soon when he travels to France for a truffle festival.
Among his plans for the near future is a new 2,400-square-foot location down the road that will focus exclusively on chocolate, and the addition of food to his cafe.
“Cooking and baking is simple,” he said. “You deliver what you promise. . . . Performance is the main ingredient.”