I've been saving Menotti's. Since the beginning of the Great Cappuccino Project, it's been there, waving at me from the fancy Google Map I made, just begging me to visit. But I've held off until now - mostly because this is the place that, coming into this project, I had the strongest feelings about. I really like Menotti's. And I'm happy to declare, that even after tasting over 25 of the best cappuccinos in the city, I still really like Menotti's.
Menotti's is the only coffee shop on the list that can be considered ocean-view (after the Two Guns location on the Manhattan Beach Pier sadly closed), but there is so much happening at this location that the Pacific is the last thing you'll notice. It's located on the stretch of Windward Ave. that famously doubled as Mexico in Orson Welles' incredible three-minute-long opening shot in Touch of Evil - a street that most tourists remember for its famous V-E-N-I-C-E sign. In my mind, this is the epicenter of what out-of-towners consider Venice to be. It hits all the postcard-perfect marks: there are skateboarders weaving in and out of foot traffic, vibrant murals covering the walls of nearly every building, trails of questionable smoke emanating from circles of colorfully dressed backpackers and old-school hippies, and musicians fearlessly hawking their latest work to passersby. And sitting calmly amongst the chaos is Menotti's, a bright little coffee haven full of neighbors and friends.
Named for the building's former owner, who ran a grocery store with a secret liquor operation underneath during the Great Depression, Menotti's aesthetic pays tribute to the historic building it calls home. A restored honeycomb tiled floor lies underfoot, copper ceiling tiles line the front of the coffee bar, and retro-styled lamps hang overhead. The shop has actually doubled in size since my last visit - upon their two-year anniversary in 2015, the space next door was opened up to allow for additional seating. It's still quite small, but the bright white walls and large windows help to give the space an open, airy feel.
Though he wasn't present at my recent visit, Christopher "Nicely" Abel Alameda is the head barista here - upon opening the shop, owners Louie and Annette Ryan tapped Nicely to run the show, who came to the project armed with years of experience working for Intelligentsia and Handsome Coffee. It's clear that Nicely's love of the craft and affable demeanor is shared by the rest of the team, who welcome customers with the kind of broad smile you'd give an old friend. They're passionate about making coffee, and want to talk to you about it. In fact, drink customization is encouraged here, as a chalkboard behind the bar states: "don't see what you're looking for? Let's talk about it!"
While Menotti's famously offers a "secret menu," I most often stick with their simple, perfect cappuccino. The delicious Four Barrel espresso shines brilliantly amidst the decadently creamy milk, offering a cocoa-like bitterness that is reminiscent of really good dark chocolate. There's also a hint of a toasted flavor, like a charred marshmallow, that recalls fond memories of s'mores past. And of course, it's topped off with some beautifully articulated latte art.
While parking here can be a challenge (pro tip: there are some one-hour metered spots a block away in front of Bank of America that are usually open), and you'll undoubtedly have to elbow your way through crowds of international backpacking college students before you find the place, Menotti's is a stop worth making. I'm already planning my next visit, when I'll order up something fun and new (and probably one of those enormous cookies from the pastry chef at Hatchet Hall), and relax the day away, Venice-style.
56 Windward Ave
Venice, CA 90291