New cafe in Pittsburgh's Strip District will be a combination coffee roaster and wine bar

The first retail location for Atelier de Fer is opening on Smallman Street, a coffee roaster/cocktail and wine bar that will offer snacks and provisions to-go by the end of the year.

The spot had been home to Luke and Alexis Shaffer’s 21st Street Coffee and Tea (2002 Smallman) for more than a decade; the Shaffers decided to leave after extended negotiations with the landlord, DiCio Real Estates LLC, over the terms of the lease. The pioneering 21st Street Coffee built a reputation selling coffee from small- to mid-sized producers with attention to sourcing, fair trade, roasts and brewing methods. The Shaffers have been looking for a new location to replace the one they closed earlier this fall, while they continue to run the 600-square-foot Downtown shop at Three PNC Plaza.

De Fer — French for “of iron” — has edged into local roasting alongside Commonplace Coffee and La Prima Espresso.

“Pittsburgh can support multiple roasters,” says founder Matthew Marietti, citing cities with an extensive coffee culture like Portland, Ore., New York and even Columbus, Ohio.

Local roasting is growing in cities around the country, anchored on the belief that fresh and local roasting — when it’s done with skill — can be ideal.  Local roasting became more popular when indie companies that launched post-Starbucks sold out to corporate interests. Portland, Ore.-based Stumptown, for example, has sold out to the California-based Peet’s Coffee and Tea, which also has a majority stake in Chicago-based Intelligentsia.

Mr. Marietti, a Pittsburgh native who attended Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, founded De Fer in February after he left his position working for Heinz (then Kraft Heinz) for seven years. Part of his time with Kraft Heinz sent him with his family to London, where he and his wife Vanessa fine-tuned plans to open a roaster and cafe. They were inspired by European coffee shops that serve many purposes, offering great coffee and wine as well as snacks. The ones they like tended to be family friendly, something important to the Mariettis, who have two young daughters.

Since April, De Fer had been roasting in the XFactory in Homewood on Lynn Way, one of several small businesses in the building that includes a kombucha maker and a production facility for Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. The company has offered coffee online, at Curbside Coffeehouse in Blawnox and at Five Points Artisan Bakeshop in Squirrel Hill, along with the farmers markets in East Liberty, Bellevue and Shadyside. 

Mr. Marietti is passionate about coffee because “it’s one of life’s simple pleasures” that’s also accessible and affordable. He’s the kind of coffee fan who has planned travels around visiting coffee roasters and shops and he has also trained out west with the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

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Once the shop opens in a month or so, Mr. Marietti plans on maintaining “responsible and sustainable” coffee sourcing and good ingredients for simple dishes on the food menu — with pastry from La Gourmandine in Hazelwood and meats from Parma in the Strip District. The shop also sells loose tea, with Anchor and Anvil out of Ben Avon and Coraopolis among customers, along with Pittsburgh Juice Co. in Lawrenceville and Staghorn Home & Garden Cafe in Greenfield. 

The Mariettis will work with partners Corey Tiani, the designer, and his wife Keri, who does illustration and graphics for the group, as well as Mohit Kudaravalli, who handles finance and operations.

Though they’re still working out the hours, the spot will likely open early in the morning to around 9 p.m.

Melissa McCart:; Instagram @postgazettefood; Facebook @postgazettefood

First Published November 15, 2017 9:17 AM


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