If you've ever spent timing ogling unbelievable latte-art photos on the internet, chances are you were staring at more than a few drinks poured by Christopher Abel Alameda. Known to his friends and fans as Nicely, his striking latte-art style is reminiscent of Raf Simons‘ recent work for Dior: eschewing the highly technical and involved, focusing instead on super clean visual appeal and creative twists on classic designs. But it's not just pretty lattes that have won Nicely a dedicated fan-base on and off-line — he's a warm, engaging person who brings a visible passion and signature look to everything he does.
Nicely got his start at Espresso Vivace in Seattle, learning the trade at one of the original hotbeds of latte-art and quality espresso. For the last five years he's been wowing southern California customers with his coffee making prowess and latte art skills, first at Intelligentsia, then Handsome Coffee Roasters, and then later at The Hart & The Hunter.
Now Nicely is settling into his new role as self-described “luckiest dude on earth”. He's helming the coffee program at Menotti’s Coffee Stop in Venice near the boardwalk, and he and his lady-love Kailani Jolada Rodde-Ector have a new addition to their family, Abel, who is arguably the cutest baby on the planet.
I swung by Menotti's with talented photographer Bonnie Tsang to see and hear a bit about what goes into a day in the life of Nicely.
Nicely and Ms. Rodde-Ector live about a mile from Menotti’s. Each morning Nicely dons one of his signature looks–like these classic Big Smith overalls he bought at Animal House–rolls up to Menotti on his vintage Schwinn, and fires up the turquoise La Marzocco FB80 to make some killer cappuccinos with coffee from San Francisco's Four Barrel Coffee.
With Menotti’s being open for about 7 weeks now, we were curious hear how how life in Venice is treating Nicely's new family at home and work. It turns out, Menotti’s lives up to the old adage, ‘if you build it they will come.’ A lot of people from the coffee community have been showing up and supporting us,” said Nicely with a big smile on his face. “It’s just been beautiful.”
Even though fall and winter are technically the slow season in the Venice Boardwalk area Menotti’s has been remarkable busy. “For summer we might do a thing or two different to the space and introduce new menu items, probably cold tea,” Nicely told me. “We are anticipating being very, very busy so we get to grow towards that organically.”
Nicely says that it's “the Venice locals that drive me now. The majority of my business has been all local. The community has been the best part about it and has full arms embraced what we have been doing. I am finding it great to be in what if left of the real Venice.”
Oh, and he's gushing about the coffee getting served at Menotti's. “Four Barrel’s support has been tremendous. I love being about to count on and draw upon their community of professionals. Their coffees have been delicious.” But do LA folks mind trying something from San Francisco? According to Nicely, “Everybody has loved it. Everybody has been excited to have it as an option to drink in LA. It’s been gangbusters.”
For Nicely, the chance to work so close to home has been “the greatest blessing I could have ever asked for, wished for, prayed for.” Every day Ms. Rodde-Ector brings Abel to visit dad at work. She usually orders an almond milk cappuccino. Abel’s been known to play with a milk pitcher or saucer. Who knows? Perhaps he could one day follow in his father's footsteps into latte art royalty.
Big Smith overalls from Animal House, Guisados t-shirt, Hedley & Bennett apron.
All photos by Bonnie Tsang.