A Coffee Chain's Stand-Up Effort on M St.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Italian coffee chain Illy, whose high-end beans have been making inroads in hotels and restaurants around the country, has chosen a District site for its first cafe in the United States.

The location, named Caffe, opened last week in Marriott's Renaissance M Street Hotel in the West End. It features sleek red-and-white decor and the chain's signature ceramic espresso cup. There are no tables, only a stand-up bar on which patrons can rest an elbow, European-style.

"This is a true Italian espresso cafe," said John Eddleman, director of restaurants for Renaissance.

Marriott had used the brand in its restaurants and hotel rooms, he said. It tapped Illy to open the cafe based on positive feedback from guests and the brand recognition it has among international tourists, he said.

Illy coffee is sold in 100 countries and employs about 600 people. The 70-year-old company, which was founded in Italy and keeps its headquarters there, estimates that its customers drink more than 6 million cups of Illy's brew a day.

Eddleman said the chain was also appealing because it was not another outlet for a certain well-known coffee chain -- "that place that starts with an S" -- which he said was planning to open across the street.

"We are a unique boutique hotel," he said of Renaissance. "We were looking for something that would set us apart."

-- Ylan Q. Mui

© 2007 The Washington Post Company