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Caffè Lucé: A place to forge relationships

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Ian Green | The Daily Wildcat

Customers inside of Caffe Luce, a local Tucson coffee shop located on Park Avenue north of University Boulevard. The cafe displays a variety art and offers many drinks including coffee, tea and Italian sodas.

It’s 11 a.m. on a Monday, and Caffè Lucé reached capacity fifteen minutes ago. Stragglers can sit outside on the patio or take their coffee to-go. Either way, a barista might recommend ice in that drink.

In the middle of an Arizona summer, encountering an abundance of students anywhere in Tucson is unlikely. Those who can leave often do. Besides a summer session classroom, Caffè Lucé is one of the few places where students can be found this time of year.

Whether engaging with a textbook or a Tinder date, people seek out the cafe’s laid-back vibe. Like many of its patrons, the cafe tries to present the coolest version of itself but doesn't have to try too hard.

Like cafes in small towns or in the movies, Caffè Lucé functions as a gathering place for the local community. However, it skips the down-home charm and extensive pie menus in favor of a grittier personality.

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Nestled around the corner of University Boulevard on Park Avenue, Caffè Lucé could rely on location alone to bring in business. The high industrial ceiling and warm décor make the spot more than just a convenient dispensary of caffeine; it’s a place to spend a morning or afternoon.

If you want to get pretentious about coffee, Caffè Lucé's baristas will probably forgive you for it. Their selections of beans and espresso drinks invite the mood. While the cafe’s in-house roaster and local art give it the gravitas of a self-important coffee bar, its cheerful and quick service defies that stereotype.

Ian Green | The Daily Wildcat

Caffe Luce features local artists' work inside their cafe, which rotates on a regular basis. The cafe has one location on Park Avenue near Main Gate Square.

Tables take a while to open up here. Open laptops are strewn everywhere. One long table by the window is practically a co-working island, with six seats for as many freelancers. Four-tops crowd the open floor, and against a far wall a half-circular couch accommodates three tables, spanning outward like an Arizona sunrise.

People come here with a plan. Whether their date is with a physics problem or a friend, patrons linger here for the coffee, a newspaper or the place itself, they come here to stay.

Two older men, their drinks getting cold on a low table, have claimed the loveseat nestled in a window enclave. A woman dressed in business-casual grills the man sitting across from her in what is either a down-to-business interview or an aggressive date. Two other couples sit stiff with the pressure of introductions.

For one couple, the smiles come quickly. “It’s so nice to meet you,” the woman says. Her eyes convey relief like, 'I’m so glad you look like the person in the photos.'

Her expectation, then, was an athletic guy with a blonde man-bun and a leg that shakes when he talks. Nervousness stretches his smile across his face, but the conversation still comes easily.

Ian Green | The Daily Wildcat

Craig Baker works the coffee bar at Caffe Luce on Thursday, July 20. Caffe Luce is a local Tucson coffee shop with one location on campus as well as another downtown on Congress Street and Fifth Ave.

Sitting diagonally from each other are two people listing their resumes, mustering as much charisma as can be inserted into “Well, right now I’m working on ….” and “In high school I was really into Model UN, haha. I was such a nerd.”

Both pairs are trying their best to make a good impression. That might be why they chose Caffè Lucé. It’s casual but it takes itself seriously; it’s close to the university but caters to professors as much as students. The baristas, like grungy camp counselors, make you cool by proximity.

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The cafe is neutral enough to leave room for projecting. The value of this space is its bareness, the stripped and often wobbly furniture and floor-to-ceiling windows. More than its burnt sienna walls, customers are what bring color to the cafe.

The choice of Caffè Lucé as a meeting place lends the appearance of its coolness: This person is hip, easygoing, appropriate. Yet, like any community, its substance really comes from what people bring to it and cultivate once there.

Here’s to the second date.


Follow Ellice Lueders on Twitter.



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