Caffé Galileo creates a buzz on Swede Street
“I was in the coffee business before Starbucks even came to Pennsylvania when I opened Galileo’s Old World Coffeehouse in the Giant shopping center in Blue Bell in the mid ’90s,” DeSimone recalled. “People didn’t know what a cappuccino was.”
Wouldn’t you know it: Shortly after DeSimone closed his shop, the Seattle coffee chain opened a store up in Plymouth Meeting.
“That’s when people started getting educated about cappuccinos and good coffee,” DeSimone said.
With Norristown not exactly on the ubiquitous Starbucks’ radar as a prime location, DeSimone, who earned his master’s degree in counseling psychology from Villanova University and practiced psychotherapy while letting the coffee idea percolate on the back burner for a while, decided it was time somebody brought a little coffee culture into the heart of Norristown.
“I never let the idea go, and I know Starbucks will never come to Norristown,” he said. “All the other county seats have Starbucks or something else. West Chester had two Starbucks and two independents at one point. And it was the same way in Media.”
Since DeSimone and business partner Vince Palagruto have remedied the downtown coffee situation with Caffé Galileo, folks have discovered the warmly disarming little shop as a great place for not only a world-class “cuppajoe” and baristacrafted sips like the establishment’s namesake drink — a transcendent coffee-chocolate- orange concoction that sells for $3.60 — but also for handmade breakfast paninis and lunchtime wraps and sandwiches.
Lingering over a robust Americano and a slice of straight-from-Dutch-country Katie’s Crumb Cake ($2.25) or a Morabito Baking Co. pastry has become a daily indulgence for the shop’s many regulars.
The coffee beans are supplied by Philadelphia-based roaster La Colombe.
“We did a two-year search for good coffee and I think we found it in La Colombe,” DeSimone said. “I found some good coffee in Oregon and California, but I wanted to stay as local as possible. At La Colombe, coffee is like scotch; they create a blend and that’s the formula they follow, so it’s very consistent and that’s the main reason I like their coffee. It may sound a little snobby, but they are connoisseurs. That’s one reason I like Starbucks — because no matter which one you go to, they’re consistent. And I think people like that.”
While the connection with the 17th century astronomer Galileo may be decidedly conspicuous, you will probably have to engage either DeSimone or manager Anthony Chiaravalloti in conversation to learn about the Einstein kinship.
In designing the eclectic and vintage motif, DeSimone and his wife, Linda, enlisted the help of a few striking pieces that were gleaned from an early 1900s general store in Princeton, which happened to be one of Einstein’s favorite haunts: a burnished yellow pine and oak counter and a lustrous oak cabinet.
“Einstein taught at Princeton, and he went in this store all the time, which was owned by an Italian immigrant until it closed in the ’60s,” DeSimone said. “We thought they were perfect for the café, to add to the old/new experience we’re trying to create here.”
Follow Gary Puleo on Twitter @Mustangman48.