It is official: Last night Valentino de Caliz, with his sister Celina beside him, cut the red ribbon across the door and Cafe Valentino in The Hotel was open for business.
Celina will be managing the new cafe, the first coffeehouse north of the Sir Barry Bowen Bridge here in San Pedro, Belize. The tasty selection of breakfasts and lunches will be the responsibility of chef Celia. Valentino, himself a busy musician here on Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, said he will maintain a steady presence at the cafe.
Last night, friends, neighbors, fellow musicians and future customers gathered to help kick off the cafe.
Cafe Valentino is the second venture to launch in the once dormant The Hotel, about a half mile north of the bridge. The Irish pub Molly Malone’s re-opened its doors a couple of months ago. The rest of the hotel, of course, still awaits completion.
Rose and I stole away from the festivities to check out the rooftop of the three-story hotel, of which we’ve heard rave reviews. For an unused venue, it screams “Potential!” There is a long palapa-covered bar, rows of comfortable benches, day-use cabanas, an infinity pool and Jacuzzi … and a panoramic view of the island that is simply the best we’ve seen.
We’ve heard it often enough, sunsets atop The Hotel would be spectacular. So would sunrises but who watches the sun rise with a drink in their hand? (Oh, never mind …)
But back to Cafe Valentino.
What coffee will be served at Cafe Valentino? The island’s own Caye Coffee Back Street dark roast.
Speaking of reviving dormant institutions, Caye Coffee owners Paul DuVille and his wife, Marci Price, were at the celebration last night. Caye Coffee was actually started in 2004 but had been shuttered nearly two years when Paul and Marci acquired the San Pablo-area roaster last November.
Since then they have focused on three roasts, their mild Front Street, medium roast Middle Street and the bold Back Street. Yes, those are the former (for many, still) names of San Pedro Town’s three main streets, now respectively named Barrier Reef Drive, Pescador Drive and Angel Coral Street.
Paul and Marci were also celebrating the fact that the newly opened Rum+Bean in Mahogany Bay Village is also using their coffee.
Besides excellent coffee, great food, occasional live music and a cool neighborhood vibe, Cafe Valentino has the perfect accouterments to a coffeehouse — books. Shelves and shelves of books.
And that’s how I see myself some morning very soon — seated at a cafe table, coffee cup to my right, pastry to my left and face burrowed deep into one of Cafe Valentino’s books on Belize, or a novel, or a biography, or ….