New Beginnings, Post COVID, Beckon at the Cornell Tech Café


Some delicious new beginnings at the Cornell Tech café entice as the clouds of COVID lift. Springtime, a revived management team and fewer restrictions inspired changes.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

New Beginnings at the Cornell Tech Café

Revamped, the coffee bar adds more snacks and an exciting smoothie list.

Joann Livia barely got to know the place as a new manager in 2020 before COVID stormed in and shut down the campus, along with pretty much everything else. She’d started a series of featured, healthful promotions with vendors offering fee samples. Then, for the next two years, she worked at keeping quality up as pandemic demands pushed back.

Joann Livia at Blueberry Chia Tasting in January, 2020.

But as the community increases its return to pre-pandemic levels, providing a steady base of customers, mixing with the lively campus crowd, she and new manager Christian Camacho are giving their imaginations free rein.

A refreshed smoothie list includes – get this – Nutty Banana, Bees’ Knees and Green Tropics… 

First step was revamping the popular coffee bar. It still features Parliament brews, but they’ve added more snacks, treats and dessert items. Together with a creative array of meal offerings, this further reimagines the café as a goto place for casual meetings, long luncheons and caffeine fueled kickoffs.

One big change making a difference was changing sushi suppliers, bringing in New York City’s best supplier, Pescatore, now a near legend in Grand Central.

The atmosphere is warm, bright and inviting, and the free FIOS makes for a perfect second office. As for work, something about blending in with this high tech campus just makes you feel smarter.

Guest Restaurant Series

Under manager Chris Lewis, who left in February, the café at Cornell Tech made giant steps in reaching out and bringing in Roosevelt Islanders. If something was going on – movie nights, Roosevelt Island Day – he’d have a table ready. In turn, residents began seeing the café as “in the neighborhood.”

But Camacho takes it a step further. He’s adding to the already popular 1:1 guest restaurant presence with a whole new series designed for expanding healthy choices. Among the guests will be Ampia, best known for their handmade gnocchi, and in April, Darbar makes its debut with Indian specialties.

This may not be your grandmother’s café, but it’s just as warm and welcoming. And some of the food may be even better.

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