His work at Sightglass helped inspire him to transition out of his engineering job and pursue coffee as one of his next ventures. It was through his interactions with its proprietors that Oldani became serious about how he tasted and brewed coffee. He attended their training sessions to supplement his own independent study efforts and practiced brewing coffee at his art studio for two years. Oldani slowly acquired his equipment over time, including a vintage La San Marco espresso coffee machine that was formerly used at Oliveto.
"I have an affinity for the lever mechanism. A lot of the new machines are trying to duplicate what the old machines inherently do with the lever. There's a quick, ramping up of pressure at the beginning of the shot which tapers off to a lower pressure at the end. And the newer machines try to do it by controlling pumps and a lot of electronics, whereas this machine is almost all mechanism. And it does a really beautiful job of the exact same thing mechanically, which also happens to make it a really great machine for doing portable business as it requires less electricity and is more of a workhorse."
In addition to its coffee drinks, CRO Cafe also serves up a delicious hot chocolate. Oldani's fiancee and business partner, Sacha Badme, honed her culinary skills by taking a chocolate class at Tante Marie's cooking school. She uses unsweetened TCHO chocolate as the base and creates her own custom blend that imparts a rich sweetness to their warm confection.
Looking ahead to the future, Oldani is currently converting an antique milk truck into a mobile espresso truck and hopes to roll it out in the East Bay in the near future. He's also building food service tricycles for the Exploratorium and hopes the experience will spur his ability to finish the truck soon. While he has no plans to roast his own coffee -- "although I could totally see a time when that would be really compelling and could see myself becoming obsessed with it" -- Oldani plans to keep a limited menu at CRO Cafe to keep the focus on serving great espresso drinks.
"The thing that is compelling to me is that there's so much mediocre coffee available and maybe it's a better business model. But there's a growing interest in fanatical preparation and sourcing the highest quality ingredients. It feels like we're serving people who are only interested in that, although that's a much smaller segment of the market. The larger roasteries and multiple cafe outlets really control the cost of a cup of coffee and have the advantage of bigger vertical integration in that they source, roast and distribute on a larger scale so their margins are better than ours. But if you spend a lot of time and money trying to make the best coffee, people do appreciate it. I'm hoping that this market will increase, and I'm really excited to see that growth and be a part of that."