Pizzelles will be a specialty at Sorso

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Renee Liberato has never run a cafe before, but she has a very specific vision for Sorso Coffee, coming to 1245 S. 15th St., just off Wharton in Point Breeze.

When interior construction is complete and her petite storefront opens for business, Liberato hopes people waiting for La Colombe espresso and drinking $2 refillable cups of joe at windowside stools do something unusual: Talk to each other.

“I want this be a neighborhood place,” she said, noting that she’s modeling the space after the everyday coffee bars that dot Italy (sorso = “sip” in Italian). “Read a newspaper! Make conversation!”

Liberato will probably install wifi anyway, she said, but in general, she doesn’t expect the spot to be full of camped out laptop workers. For one thing, the room is very small, with less than a dozen seats planned. Second, the whole vibe she’s going for is “vintage.” She recently had the floor re-tiled with black-and-white rosettes, and will decorate with old-time-inspired photography by artist James Jackson, who lives on the block.

Renee Liberato at the soon-to-be Sorso Coffee Credit: Danya Henninger / Billy Penn

Sorso’s drink selection will also be somewhat throwback. “This is not where you come to get schooled on coffee,” Liberato said. She recently completed training with Todd Carmichael of La Colombe, but is not planning to offer single-origin roasts or pour-overs. “If you want all that, Ultimo is right down the street.”

A concise food menu will offer bagels, danishes and croissants, as well as Liberato’s specialty: Handmade pizzelles.

Pizzelle-making became a hobby for the former videographer when she left her job to be a mother full-time. Now that her kids are growing up and she’s getting back into the working world, she figured she’d bring the Italian treat with her. Expect traditional anise but also flavors like vanilla, chocolate and salted almond.

It took nearly 18 months of navigating zoning permits and RCO committees to get to this point, Liberato said, but it’s worth it. She and her husband bought the cafe property and adjacent building because they love the area — “it feels real down here” — and want to help revitalize it with affordable retail, the kind of place both newcomers and longtime residents will patronize.

“All of the neighbors have been awesome” during buildout, Liberato noted. “Young, old, black, white, gay, straight — everyone we’ve met has been so welcoming.”

She’ll also open early for an easy pre-work cup. Planned hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday, with a 7 a.m. opening on weekends. Target launch date is “late summer.”

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Danya Henninger

Danya Henninger is director of Billy Penn at WHYY, where she oversees the team, all editorial decisions, and all revenue generation — including the...