On most days, if you want to find me between 1:30 and 2pm, I'm usually at Marquee Video. Weird, right? Especially since I almost never rent videos.
I do, however have a daily latte.
And that's where Joe comes in.
Co-owner Giuseppe Anile (I call him Joe because that's how he was introduced to me several years ago) has created a room that's quite pretty and neatly laid out: There's a rough-hewn bar-height table at the window front, to perch while sipping an espresso and watching endless close calls at the crosswalk on College street.
There are several tables behind it, and then DVDs as far as the eye can see: An extensive collection specializing in rare and hard to finds, documentaries, the latest hits, foreign films, and much of the Criterion Collection.
Head to the back of the store. That's where you'll find Joe, behind the red countertop. Behind that vintage Elecktra machine. Beside it is the coffee grinder, filled with a "special blend of classic coffee," he says.
This being a video store, there are movie snacks to be had: Kettle chips in all the right flavours, German chocolate bars and Italian sodas and juices. To go with the coffee, there are almond and chocolate chunk or lemon poppyseed biscotti, made by an area baker. Popcorn is always free. The ice cream is from Maypole and comes in a half dozen flavours.
But we're talking about coffee here, and Joe's no amateur. He comes from a proud lineage of Italian coffee drinkers (he's verrry Italian). I'm addicted to his lattes; warm and soothing, smooth without too much bite, and a lovely foam topper.
One day, when I ask the gaggle of regulars why they come here -- to a video store -- for their daily espressos, cappuccinos, lattes and Americanos, the consensus is that while the coffee is great, so too is the commoraderie.
"Let's face it," says Joe to the crowd. "I'm the real draw here."
Pro: Five minutes from my house.
Con: Not enough baked goods, and sometimes Joe's mean to me.
Latte: $2.75, Biscotti: $1.50.