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Went striding confidently up to Caffe Vergnano 1882 (3850 Fifth Avenue, Hillcrest, 619-255-1882) the other night.

Always liked their Olde Worlde outside and Italian Moderne look inside. Tonight, I basically, jes’ wanted one of their nice $1.95 espressos (There’s no drip coffee here. These are fanatical Italians, remember).

And I like how the black gold comes out of the fantastical replica of the world’s first espresso machine (1917) that they have there. Looks and sounds like a steam locomotive.

Plus, they’re nicely obsessive about that espresso being hot and fresh. “If an espresso sits in the cup more than 30 seconds, we throw it away,” says the owner/franchisee Hector. “Now you know why there are no Starbucks in Italy.”

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He started this first branch in the US of the Caffe Vergnano 1882 chain based in Turin.

So yeah, “piccolo” espresso, glass of water, and maybe a pastry, or one of their square cuts of pizza ($3.50) to tide me over.

But, erk! Not open. Notice in the door says it all.

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“Our New Schedules: Mon & Tue - closed; Wed, Thu & Sun - 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.; Fri & Sat, 10:00 a.m. to 08:00 p.m.”

Pity. Last I looked they were open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day.

Guess it’s hard times in Hillcrest. I see Côté Sud, the much-lamented French eatery across the road is still empty, waiting for some brave visionary to take up the tattered tricolor.

Sigh. Meantime, for me, guess it’s gotta be Starbucks.

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