Yesterday we brought you news of Via Tribunali's impending closure. Today we bring you the details.
We spoke with Christopher Gelber, who runs operations for the non-Seattle locations of parent company Caffe Vita. Gelber says the Old Town space across from Voodoo Doughnut was originally intended to be a full-service Caffe Vita, but once they began to consider the idea of bringing the Via Tribunali experience to Portland, they never looked back.
"It was a project of passion and love," says Gelber. "I'm heartbroken to take it back out again. But it's not the best way to spend my energy and time to nurture a wood-fired pizza restaurant in that location. I'd like to focus on what we do best."
Gelber says it was tough trying to run a moderately upscale restaurant on Ankeny Alley, where a lot of Portlanders would rather not visit at night. And it wasn't much better for the squeezed-in Caffe Vita during the day. Without indoor seating, coffee drinkers had no place to settle in off the street. "Caffe Vita suffers because there's no place to sit down. We want to give people that option."
He expects to shutter Via Tribunali by the end of the month. If you want one last taste of their wood-fired pizza, get it now. He says it'll take about a month to overhaul the space into a full-service, sit-down cafe, and aims to have Caffe Vita's doors open by the end of February.
What about the big tiled oven? "We'll likely take the stuff up to Seattle and build another up there."
The Old Town spot isn't the only Caffe Vita location getting an overhaul. The NE Alberta spot, which is also the Portland roastery, is getting renovated.
"I'm going to remodel the store on Alberta to make it more of a showcase location," says Gelber. When the company bought the old Concordia Coffeehouse back in 2010, they never got around to fully renovating the space and updating the decor to match the company's urban vibe. "I want both locations to represent the company, which is a much cleaner, cooler looking place."
They'll be expanding coffee roasting production at the Alberta store, and to mitigate the nose they'll separate the roaster into another room.
Gelber also says he's currently scouting out other Portland locations for the coffee chain, which also has outposts in L.A. and New York. "We are definitely growing Caffe Vita. I would say we'll open a couple more in Portland for sure."