I’ve often mentioned my “local,” the world famous Luna Star Cafe in North Macondo. I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned one of the few waystations en route, though – in this case Mimmo’s Mozzarella, a very small Italian market and cafe (four tables and a couple of chairs outside) a few blocks away. The coziness of the cafe is slightly misleading, though – behind the counter and through a doorway was a warehouse-sized antechamber where the owners made their own cheeses (including mushroom and truffle cheeses, fruit-laced rolls and molds, manchegos and fromaggio to roll your eyes up in your head) and of course the creamy ambrosia that gave the place its name.
The market itself features the kinds of dear delicacies that you often had to consider in lieu of your monthly budget before purchasing – craft pastas, imported sopressata, homemade fruit preserves, homemade tuna tartare, truffled duck foi gras with figs and dates, pistachio cream and coffee cream spreads. They also make the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten, and a panna cotta served with a variety of their homemade jams that has to be tasted to be believed. The more often you lapsed, the more often your budget came orf badly by comparison.
Normally, I would roll into this little corner of heaven around 7PM for a quick hit of one of their desserts and a cup of frothy hot cappuccino, or if feeling expansive maybe one of their amazing sandwiches (based on a melted dose of that dreamlike mozzarella), or the amazing northern Italian recipe spinach pie. Thence, it’d be orf to the Luna Star for an evening of live music and camaraderie. Always ready with a big grin to welcome me into the little cafe and introduce me to the day’s special offering, or to guide me through selections of unfamiliar cheeses or regional desserts, was an affable young man named Jose Gonzalez. He was happy to see me come in because he knew I was an inveterate experimenter, and he could count on me to sample anything new and interesting the geniuses who owned the place and invented the dishes had produced – and to provide detailed feedback about it.
Two nights ago I was about to make the left turn into the cafe’s postage stamp sized gravel parking lot when I noticed the “closed” sign in the front door. Like any small proprietorship the cafe’s hours were always advisory at best so I didn’t think anything of it. I headed on to the Luna Star a tad earlier than planned.
Then this morning, while perusing the local news online, I read something that made me choke on my oatmeal. On Wednesday evening, a patron had entered the cafe and called for Jose, who wasn’t at the counter. When no one answered his summons, he walked into the back room where he found Jose dead of a gunshot wound. Whoever had killed him apparently hadn’t even tried to break open the digital cash register and doesn’t seem to have taken anything, so the police aren’t sure if the killer panicked and ran or if the murder resulted from some as yet unknown personal altercation.
Such is the world we live in – not, of course, that it’s ever really been any different. Jose was a good guy and I’ll miss his smile and his enthusiastic proffering of Mimmo’s daily specialty.
They say they’ll reopen the cafe on Monday. I plan to stop in.