Espresso, a thick rich coffee that is extracted rather than brewed, originated in late 19th-Century Italy. Many espresso lovers believe that the Italian method is still the best. Now Dunwoodians have a place to enjoy the very special treat of Italian espresso – Crema Espresso Gourmet, where the espresso and espresso drinks are made by baristas trained in the Italian way.

Located at 2458 Mount Vernon Road at the intersection with Jett Ferry Road, Crema has been open less than a month and already has dedicated regulars.

Friends Molly Peled and Norma Shohet-Kadoori have been to Crema more than ten times each.

“The first day, I had breakfast, lunch and dinner here,” said Peled, having lunch at Crema with Shohet-Kadoori on Saturday.

“You always feel welcome,” said Shohet-Kadoori.

“We come here at least two times a week, usually for lunch,” said Billy Parrish, another dedicated patron.

“We’re particular about our coffee,” said his wife, Connie Zimmerman-Parrish.

While Crema is all about Italian gourmet espresso and espresso drinks, its secret weapon is its gourmet food, created by owner Yossi Ben-Haim, for the past ten years the executive chef and owner of BluNuvo, an upscale European-style caterer.

“What brought us here is the coffee,” said Parrish, “What keeps us here is the food and Yossi.”

Ben-Haim’s goal at Crema is to share with coffee lovers both the experience of espresso made the Italian way, a technique he learned as a barista for an Italian espresso company in Israel, and the gourmet foods he has created at BluNuvo.

He says the three keys to great gourmet Italian espresso are the beans, the espresso machine and the barista.

As at the finest Italian espresso bars, he uses only medium-roast 100 percent Arabica beans, as opposed to the darker, oiler beans used at many other American espresso cafés. His beans are roasted no more than four to five days before he uses them. The result is a fresher, more flavorful espresso with a thicker, creamier crema (the creamy, froth that forms during the extraction process).

Unlike most espresso chains, Crema uses a manual Italian espresso machine, what Ben-Haim calls the “Rolls-Royce of espresso machines.” His baristas grind new beans in a separate grinder for every 10 to 15 cups for fresher coffee. The entire process requires extensive training in knowing how fine a grind is required for a particular drink, how much pressure to apply in the tamping basket and more.

Ben-Haim is proud of his baristas, all of whom he has personally trained to know the recipes, the proper portions of ingredients and the traditional presentation. They are all high-school or college students from nearby neighborhoods and take their job seriously.

Two youngsters who were busy at the espresso machine, looked up and called out in unison, “Yes, we are baristas! Yossi taught us.”

In addition to traditional Italian espresso, other drinks at Crema include espresso macchiato, macchiatone, cappuccino, latte and café fredo – to name just a few. Patrons can have their drinks made with whatever milk they choose – including whole or 2 percent milk or almond or soy milk. The prices will amaze anyone who has been to other local espresso bars. Most espresso drinks at Crema range between $2.00 and $3.25 a shot.

As for Crema’s food, one has to experience it to appreciate its depth and breadth. From Ben-Haim’s exceptional signature chicken salad to a range of chocolates, pastries and melt-in-the-mouth croissants made from 100 percent French butter and flour, everyone seeking a higher-level culinary experience for a reasonable price will find something to like at Crema Espresso Gourmet.

The ambiance at Crema is sophisticated, with classical music playing in the morning and 1940s torch songs at night. One night, a young couple were inspired enough to dance cheek to cheek. The ambiance is also friendly and relaxed, with free WiFi and comfortable places to work on a laptop. Most patrons know Yossi Ben-Haim by name and chat with him as if they are old friends.

To find out more, visit crema-it.com, call 678-731-9020 or visit any day of the week, from 7 am to 11 pm.

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