Ed Spot #9: Cafè Leva

In the vicinity of the U of A campus is an Italian-style cafè that wears several hats...

BY EMIL TIEDEMANN

EVERYTIME I drive by this place it seems to be brimming with specialty coffee drinkers and loyal admirers of simple Italian fare. In fact, when I recently checked out the licensed Cafè Leva for the first time, the only reason my buddy and I were able to get our order "to stay" was because a pair of patrons were just leaving. We pounced on their still-warm seats with our $4 lattès as I stared down the gourmet desserts and pastries behind the '60s-styled glass showcase. Yum!

Hidden in a residential area in the Garneau district, somewhere between the U of A and Whyte Ave., Cafè Leva is a cozy little getaway from busy streetscapes. The quaint departure is "focused on providing traditional Italian-style coffee" to its devoted patrons, and has been since 2001.

We found free parking on one of the narrow lanes that criss-cross Leva on the corner of 111th St. (despite it's technical address of 110th) & 86th Ave., and immediately noticed the vacant patio in front of the sleek grey, red and yellow structure. Chalk that up to the chilly weather though.

"...we stumbled across another of Edmonton's hidden gems, just off an avenue full of gems in plain site."

Fortunately, once we passed by the grey sidewalks, grey patio, grey patio tables, and grey railing, colour welcomed us inside, but not much. Large windows invited the outdoors in, as the white walls, dim lighting and sporatic greenery did little for Leva's charm. Instead, it was its mini marble tables, that retro-styled counter showcase, an extraneous chandelier hovering above, and of course, the featured artwork by local artists that made this place memorable.

Leva also serves as a venue, for poetry readings, live music and wine tastings. They even offer catering service, and can be booked for private functions for up to 60 people. But on this particular afternoon it was a warm place to sit and chat over fancy coffee.

Although I've heard that the food here is worth every penny--their pizza is apparently a must-have--my buddy and I opted to tend to our hot drinks instead, but I couldn't help but admire the enticing displays from afar.

As my buddy and I went over a project he was tackling, I moonlighted my attention on the specialties that filled out the open room. Flat-screen TV's were mounted on the walls behind the baristas, a modern take on the chalkboard menus. There was a self-serve complimentary water cart near the front entrance, next to the free magazine racks. But what hogged most of my focus was the back of the coffee shop.

Espresso and cappucino machines--I assume--were lined along the shelves, and there were local and organic coffee products available to the general public. But again, it was my small lattè that garnered my attention in the end.

Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with any concrete ideas for my buddy's project, but the day was far from shot...because we stumbled across another of Edmonton's hidden gems, just off an avenue full of gems in plain site. But every now and again, it's nice to tread off that beaten path!

The Rundown:
Location: 11053-86 Ave.
Phone: 780-479-LEVA (5382)
Hours: Mon-Fri (7AM-11PM)/ Sat (9AM-11PM)/ Sun (9AM-6PM)
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