CaCao Café Brings a Bit of Italy to Mystic Island

By Pat Johnson | Jun 26, 2019
Photo by: Pat Johnson CaCao Café owner Antan Tutra and barista Brianna Callahan show off the mighty espresso machine.

Little Egg Harbor — Cacao Café, at 960 Radio Rd. in the Mystic Island section of Little Egg Harbor Township, is the realized dream of Antan Tutra, an Albanian-born, Italian-raised artist and entrepreneur. Tutra moved to Northfield, N.J., in 2006. Shortly after his arrival, he was featured in several prestigious art gallery showings in South Jersey.

Tutra has been an avid coffee lover for as long as he can remember and was inspired by the vibrant café culture that he grew up with in Italy. He was meeting with the owner of Ocean City Coffee Co. when he got the idea that he wanted to open his own café. He chose Mystic Island as the location for Cacao Café because the area was missing an upscale coffee shop. Tutra’s past experience in interior design gave him the opportunity to successfully transform a construction office into a coffee shop. He opened on May 4.

His beans are from Ocean City Coffee Co.; he grinds them himself on site.

His biggest fan is Osborn Island resident Ed Andrew, who swears by Tutra’s espresso.

“It tastes just like the espresso I get in Italy. It’s not acidic or bitter, and it has lots of caffeine,” said Andrew. “I’m addicted; every afternoon I have to have my espresso.”

Tutra’s espresso machine was imported from Spain. “All the cafés in Europe have these kinds of machines,” said Andrew. “You can’t get this at Wawa.”

Barista Brianna Callahan said the menu has been developed with the youthful urban clientele in mind, with a wide assortment of Monin syrup flavors both fruity and sweet or savory and flavorful.

Besides all kinds of coffee beverages one would expect, both hot and cold, the café also offers a myriad of fresh smoothies. There are sugar-free and fat-free options.

Callahan said her co-manager and barista Dylan Galloway was trained in Ireland and New York and brought his expertise to bear on the menu. Try a “Dirty Hippie,” made with chai tea, soy, almond or regular milk and a shot of espresso.

If not watching your weight, the café has muffins and pastries including baklava (honey and nut pastry) and cannolis on weekends.

In true coffee shop tradition, Cacao Café offers free Wi-Fi. Tutra has used his design sense to enhance the comfortable space with wood panels and tiles, brick backsplash, and comfortable wood and rush furniture.

Andrew is so appreciative of the espresso that he is telling all his friends to come and chill out at Cacao Café in the afternoon, as the Europeans do.

Andrew is a member of the Little Egg Harbor Commercial Revitalization Advisory Board and wants the Mystic Island strip mall where Cacao Café is located to be a success.

“He’s a great addition to the plaza,” said Andrew of Tutra. “And it’s good for all the businesses here. When I come in the afternoon for my espresso, I might stop at the fish market next store (Mystic Meat and Seafood Market) to get something for supper, or if I have my grandchildren with me, I’ll take them to the Pine Cone II for an ice cream.”

CaCao Café is open every day. The hours are Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

— Pat Johnson

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