Cafe Roma


We must keep as our goal turning away from production for war and expanding production for peace.png This entry refers to a departed business that has closed or left town.
All information here is for historical reference only.

The downtown Roma closed, and was replaced by a Peet's Coffee. The campus Roma closed (2007-02-28)—the owner decided to call it quits due in large part to lease issues. [WWW]Aggie story There was discussion about an effort to Turn Cafe Roma into a Co-Op.

roma_outside_2006_05.jpgOutside Campus Roma, April 2006. The new unpainted doors can be seen.

Campus Roma:

233 3rd Street, across from Orange Hut
Daily 7:00AM-9:30PM

Downtown Roma:

231 E Street #A, next to Chipotle across from E Street Plaza.
Daily 6:00AM - 10:00PM

roma-closure-note.jpgA note on the counter of the Campus Roma (seen 2007-2-20) about the impending closure of the cafe.

[WWW]Espresso Roma Café was the full name of this café. There are two locations in Davis: the Café Roma downtown was sometimes referred to as "Espresso Roma," while the Roma by campus was simply "Café Roma." These names were incorrect but widely used (often inconsistently).

roma_spook.jpgOutside Campus Roma, on the side of the building near the door

Both Romas were patronized mainly by students in need of a cozy place to study. There were often shows at the Romas: local bands often played, folks gathered to do poetry readings, and there was (at least during the school year) weekly stand-up comedy. The motto for Roma, as printed on the cups, was "Liquid Culture." The Romas were unique among the coffee shops in Davis because they provided a laid-back atmosphere, good music, and great coffee (get Dina or Dan to make it!) without being pretentious.

Campus Roma was home to a healthy suite of regulars, some of who were there nearly all day long, seven days a week. Commendably, the cafe was friendly to a contingent of Davis' unsheltered population, including many who were involved in The Spare Changer. The cafe could seem a little neglected, however. The many "trick" chairs which to the naked eye looked like normal chairs were really just broken. Going with the theme, the bathrooms were generally dirty, the floors were unswept and the plants were dying. Quality of service depended greatly on who wes working. Occasionally the counter would be devoid of help. Sadly this was often just because the employee was outside smoking, socializing or enjoying some fresh air. Give them credit though; cafe work can be tiring! Adding to the relaxed vibe, a seemingly endless slew of former employees/regulars/friends could be seen behind the counter sampling the goods or conducting some sort of tasks. Non-employees often pitched in and helped out when a task needed helpers. Campus Roma was a real community cafe with a set of players not often found in today's sterile corporate world. Roma was an out-of-town corporation, which may not have met many people's definition of a real community cafe

Both Romas accepted only cash, period! They also both, of course, featured wireless internet. The mochas were good, but last I tried, the smoothie wasn't very....

Because of the close proximity of both Cafe Romas, it was best to be explicit as to which Roma you're referring if you were meeting somebody there or flyering for a show.


glass_man.jpgGlass image of a man

roma_door.jpgThe windows and lighting of Campus Roma allows for a surreal feel at night time campusromawindows.jpgCampus Roma also had full-length windows as walls, and the light poured into the place beautifully dan.jpgThis is Dan. He ran the Campus Roma and is the best person ever. He didn't normally wear goggles like this, but that's just the sort of thing that happens when you're a rockstar. He's also a member of ChoadBot and Legubitron.

balad_etc.jpgThe Balad (bagel and salad combo) and an ambient iced mocha.

roma1.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #1 -AndrewLeonard

roma2.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #2 -AndrewLeonard roma3.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #3 -AndrewLeonard roma4.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #4 -AndrewLeonard roma5.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #5 -AndrewLeonard

roma6.jpgThe hour of closing, pic #6 -AndrewLeonard

macht_mural1.jpgA mural of Dan Macht, Roma's manager, appeared on the wall 2007-02-27 macht_mural2.jpgMural signed by AA BF danwatchingdan.jpgDan Macht administers a final sweep, watched by his likeness


newcolors.jpgThis is what the coffee/cash area of Campus Roma looks like (September 2004)

Cafe Roma by campus occupied two different locations within the building that houses Off-Campus Books. Until c. 1990 it was in the space that faces across A St. to the UC campus and then moved to the space across the alley from where Campus Charbroil/Ali Baba is and faced 3rd St. Roma remained their until moving to the former Cyclebells Bar space where it remained until closing. Campus Roma was designed by the same person who designed that nifty purple building at the intersection of 3rd & B.

Downtown Roma was shut down on Feb. 1st 1995 by the city due to health concerns. After they came back into compliance they re-opened, but this was not the first time they'd closed their doors due to health issues.

campusroma2.jpgThis is what Campus Roma looked like in early summer 2004.

The Campus Roma was originally only allowed to have no more than 24 seats, due to some strange city law. The management completed an extensive survey, and convinced the Davis Planning Commission to allow them to have a reasonable number of seats on June 23rd of 1996.

In late 2005 there were significant rumors that Cafe Roma by Campus would be closing. The owner of the property, Ching Chang of College Town Realty, had not let them re-sign their lease for a period of time, and has instead been negotiating with Cafe Mediterranee as a possible renter. The owner of the Cafe Roma chain had no plans to shut down the Campus location, and was unaware that the property owner was looking into finding a new renter. It's been speculated that Cafe Mediterranee decided not to pursue the property due to its lack of parking, but this could be incorrect. Nevertheless, for a short period of time it didn't seem like Campus Roma was going anywhere. ([WWW]Aggie article on the potential leave). However, it eventually did close. 3rd & U Cafe later set up shop in the former location of the cafe closest to campus.


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Dan makes a mean bagel sandwich. He has skill. The dark haired male with all the arm tattoos creates amazing lattés. The music has a lot of variety but is always the best when the strawberry-blond girl is working. Melvins! Einsturzende Neubauten! - TaliaJewell

2005-06-10 07:38:36   Dan makes the best drink ever: Chocolate plus Coffee—Heaven in a Cup —NiareeHopelian

2005-06-11 00:10:59   I don't know why this place is always crowded. The chairs are terrible, there's no parking, they even ran out of mocha syrup when I was there. —AshleyOrsaba

2005-06-23 10:54:45   Prior to working in Davis, I once had to lead a caravan of cars and trucks filled with band equipment to the Downtown Roma. What's with those dividers in the road? We had to circle around, and finally ask for directions, just to find a decent spot to park and unload. Interesting place none the less. —MichelleAccurso

2005-11-08 03:24:46   campus roma is like, the only place i ever go. in davis i mean. —InnaKurikova

2005-11-08 19:32:45   This place is more lounge than coffee shop, that's what makes it sooo cool. There is no place which one feels as welcome just for dropping in. They have one of the best bulletin boards for concerts and other local events, plus this is probably the most popular place for local rock shows. BTW, its location makes it the Constantinople of Davis. —SteveDavison

2005-11-15 18:55:34   Please folks, this is a crappy cafe, that smells bad and has bad biter burnt coffee... the atmosphere is great if you like stepping over homeless guys dogs, and I would never go there if it weren't for their live performances... good riddance —LloydWaldo

2005-11-15 19:28:23   I think it's great that homeless guys hang out at roma. I love how laid back it is, I feel like I can relax, unlike at Mishka's. And why did you (LloydWaldo) delete my comment on the Mishka's page by the way? —KenjiYamada

2005-12-06 11:54:46   The people that work there are... strange, to say the least. They seem to be stoned every time I go in there. The music that is performed generally sucks ass. ... —StaceyGalbreath

2006-01-09 12:21:01   Everything positive on this page is true. Would it ruin the informality and casual atmosphere, etc., if they just CLEANED the place now and then and had the staff observe some basic food-handling etiquette? I'm not saying they need to start using hair nets or plastic gloves, but they should wash their hands frequently (technically, the same person should not be handling both money and food items). And the guys/gals with long hair ought to tie it back, and wash their hands after their smoke breaks. Back when it was still hot, the flies were everywhere I realize that this was a Davis-wide problem. But at Roma it had reached revolting proportions, and one of the staff took to swatting them right on the countertop and table surfaces without cleaning them up.

Certainly there is othing wrong with a non-corporate look, dilapidated chairs, or homeless people for that matter—I don't object—but cognizance of the consequences ought to be taken, to make the atmosphere more pleasant. I can't accept the idea that cleanliness per se makes for a sterile, corporate atmosphere. That's fatuous. The pastries are rather stale, too, even "today's." Between that and the filth factor, I've largely cut out going there —NicholasCorwin

2006-01-14 18:48:18   when i came here with my brother, he ordered the roma salad that may have been the worst salad i have ever seen in my life. it was unetible. it smelled like a combination of feet and old lockeroom. absolutely disgusting. their atmosphere may be relaxed and all, but dont serve wrotten crap. im all for a layed back atmosphere as long as the place could just be semi clean. this was a nasty experience. —MattHh

2006-02-11 10:29:05   foo's the salads are really good and they use gloves. the coffee is excellent but the place is a little old. also the pastries are much better as of late. it is an open living room. look for more improvements in the coming months. disclaimer - i work there —DanielReid

2006-03-16 18:58:30   Hilariously, the campus roma has had music shows during finals week for the past few quarters. —PhilipNeustrom

2006-03-16 20:02:52   On the official website of espresso roma it only lists off the e street roma. WTF? Yo Richard, get some recognition! —RobRoy

2006-04-02 21:05:06   It's getting weirder, or worse, or both. Now the front door has been boarded up, and the quota of derelicts has increased to the point at which they dominate. How anyone in his right mind could stand it in there is beyond me. They have completely neglected everything, including the storefront and adjacent areas, to such an extent that the cafe is becoming an eyesore even from a distance. It should be shut down, taken over by new owners and renovated, even if the prices go up. Enough is enough. This is the block directly adjacent to campus, meaning that it should have decent stores that a) serve our needs and b) make at least a halfway decent impression on visitors. Let's get rid of this blight. —NicholasCorwin

2006-04-03 00:05:55   First, the 'derelicts' would never refer to you the way you condescend on them. Don't be such a jerk. Second, the door will hopefully be replaced by next weekend. As for the 'lets get rid of this blight,' comment, Power to the People! Down with Roma! —DanielReid

2006-04-03 01:12:34   Cafe Roma rules and is one of my favorite places in Davis. Regarding the front door, its not that big a deal since there are three other entrances. It hasn't changed the comfort level. And the management recently painted the back wall, so they're doing progressive things —BrianAng

2006-04-03 02:09:01   Filthy place. Crappy cafe. But they have couches.. —JesseSingh

2006-04-03 03:08:58   I like how people who hate the dirtiness tend to think it's a crappy cafe, and people who don't care about dirt seem to find their coffee delicious. I'm impartial, as I hate coffee/etc., but Roma is definitely an amazing place to sit around at. I also find their salads to be delicious, and the Balad to be a good deal. —GiladGurantz

2006-04-03 20:07:49   Conflating basic hygiene and sanitation with being "corporate" or "bourgeois" is affected, pretentious, and just plain silly. Certainly there is nothing wrong with having dilapidated sofas, informality, music, etc. But have you no pride in yourselves, as members of the human race? Do you enjoy wallowing in filth? Remember, this is not a private club or someone's apartment, it is, at least in theory, a restaurant/cafe open to the public, and as such it needs to conform to some minimal health and safety standards. I'm not suggesting that you change the menu, redecorate, etc., only that you observe basic food-handling procedures. Sure, leave the graffiti in the restroom, but for heaven's sake clean it! You don't have to hire someone without tattoos—and, presumably, since tattoos don't wash off, why can't everyone wash his or her hands regularly? Judas Priest, you'd all feel better into the bargain! —NicholasCorwin

2006-04-03 21:06:55   When I first read the comment about not washing hands after smoking I told peeps to wash hands because it's the law and we're being called out on the wiki. Some other complaints are a little beyond the staff. The owner and property manager could greatly invest in the business/property were they so inclined. Finally, according to the health department we're clean and safe enough to operate. And didn't you notice those fresh (as in cool) "please wash hands" signs in the bathroom? —DanielReid

2006-04-03 23:32:21   Come to think of it, I think it's only fair that I put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I hereby extend an offer to the management of Cafe Roma: For two weeks' worth of free coffee drinks (no lattes, etc., just black coffee), I will show you how the place ought to look—without destroying the art, sofas, "look," etc. I will get that head so clean that Felix Unger himself would be proud to go in there and take a dump. Give me cleanser, brush, and mop and let me at it. How about it? —NicholasCorwin

2006-04-04 13:20:20   All right, but one week of coffee in exchange for the clean head. (the management) —DanielReid

2006-04-13 23:07:30   The men's restroom in this cafe is now clean. And I mean clean. It took me over ten large bucketfuls of cleanser to extirpate the accumulated filth and grime. Consider it my good deed for Maundy Thursday. [Do I have to explain that to all you vile heathens out there?] So I have cleaned the head, ladies and gentlemen, with such punctiliousness and attention to detail that, verily, I am quite confident that my German grandmother, may she rest in peace, would be quite proud to go in there and take a dump. Next week I shall clean the women's Toilette. After that, the floors...before you know it, Roma will cease to be unsat and members of my department will again patronize it. —NicholasCorwin

2006-04-04 00:22:42   I found an eyelash or some kind of short hair in my latte. Which I wouldn't mind if the latte was better than just average. —DavisHo

2006-04-09 23:44:41   I must agree that Campus Roma is somewhat disgraceful. And I say this from experience, having been a regular for perhaps two years and the author of a good deal of the wiki discription. Before I get this off my chest though, let me point out that I did indeed enjoy the cafe very much when I was a patron. The place is filthy though! Only very rarely does the inside get swept/dry mopped (and it seems like Dan is the only one to ever clean). Cigarette butts and dustpiles have been known by me to lie for months uncleaned. Up until recently the bathrooms were in an even worse state with no soap and no paper towels for long periods. Further, there is just a general lack of money being spent on the place. Some of the chairs have been broken for years, one sofa broke so they just ripped the back off it and called it "cool" (notice it's not very popular) and the others are broken in their own ways. In a college town, where free and cheap couches are abundant, they're rediculous. A leak sprung up under the elevated seating area and ran for at least a week resulting in water damage that won't be repaired. And the broken front door? WTF!! It was disintigrating for at least a month before they even decided to close it off. I won't even get started on the certain employee(s) couldn't give a shit. While I got over all of this, many people don't. It's amazing how often I hear about people hating Roma due to it's cleanliness and/or attitude. —JackHaskel

2006-04-21 20:57:26   The 'cool' sofa is outside (for a day or two) if anyone wants it, and there's a better one inside. Oh, the front doors are replaced too, and will be varnished next week. —DanielReid

"2006-04-28" i like cafe roma, i go there a lot and order the mocha which is usually pretty good. Some of the employee's are nicer than others, typical of anywhere, but overall ya'll seem to be a bit short-staff lately. the people who say roma is dirty and gross. well i dunno. i find the womens bathroom to be pretty compariable to most campus bathrooms. This isn't the place for people who are in a rush, or people who can't stand a little dust. If ya'll are so worried about it, take a napkin and dust of the table yourself. The new couch thats cream is pretty nice, i prefer the gray chair. This place has the real pace of life, and that is it tends to change more slowly that freaking starbucks or some place that have color cordinated art and employees and tables and chairs which are pretty much the same on every street corner its on. Pretty much my favorite place to study and feed my caffiene addiction off campus. maybe a roma chair search should be in order? moving? bring your old chair. Now you are firmly intergrated in roma history because of your chair contribution. — KirstenHaney

2006-05-24 21:56:00   Some people have asked me to expand on the comment I made above about Roma being owned by an out-of-town corporation, a fact that may call into question its designation as a “real community cafe.” The cafe is owned by Sandy Boyd, whose Emeryville-based corporation owns more than twenty cafes in five states. While this doesn’t put Roma in the same league as Starbucks, it certainly puts something of a scratch in its independent veneer.

Why does this matter? The answer depends in part on what you think makes a cafe a “real community cafe.” Is it the groovy people who work and hang out there and who are groovy in ways that you like to think of yourself as being groovy, or is it the real impact (economic and otherwise) that the cafe has on the community?

I won’t rehearse here all of the details of the economics of local businesses, but I will make a few observations. In general, a greater percentage of the profits from locally-owned businesses stay in the local community, are re-spent in the local community (multiplier, anyone?), and generate taxes for the local community. When you buy your mocha at Roma, much of your dollar heads straight out of town. I don’t know who Roma’s suppliers are, but in general, locally-owned businesses are also more likely to rely on local suppliers than are larger corporations. Perhaps someone with more knowledge can let us know where they buy their milk and produce, who supplies their pastries, who roasts their coffee, etc.

Roma’s corporate ownership also takes decision-making and resources out of local hands. Boyd is a notorious skinflint. Many of his cafes have the dilapidated look and feel of the Davis Romas, as he is loath to pay for repairs, upgrades, and maintenance. A number have also been closed for health violations. While this is not necessarily a direct result of the cafes being owned by someone who lives far away, one can argue that an owner who was part of the community in which his business operated would be more likely to feel accountable to maintain his business well. —DavisExile

2006-05-25 15:36:15   To his credit the owner keeps stores open that aren't making very much money, and even losing money because he believes in the value of the coffee shop to the community (students, artists, professors, neighbors, townies, musicians, friends, etc.). I do think that the place could be so much cooler with a little more investment but campus roma is still great even its "lamentable state," which has been so dissected on this page. So, to those of you with a more fundamentalist outlook, bring your Ayn Rand book, relax on one of our ghetto-fabulous couches, and enjoy that expertly crafted cappuccino!

2007-02-15 13:34:36   I don't want Campus Roma to leave!!!!!!! =( —EliseKane

2007-02-15 13:41:04   p.s. Campus Roma is a special place to me because it is the only place I can go in town that I can go in without feeling pressured to buy something. It is a vestige of pre-capitalist society and for that, it is a valuable place (metaphysically speaking). It is so unusual to have a cafe/lounge where people can study, relax, sleep ... what have you. Is there any way we can convince the owner and landlord to leave Campus Roma open? It is such a special place for this community. How about a Keep Campus Roma petition? Or a peaceful sit-in? —EliseKane

2007-02-16 00:06:12   The campus roma needed to have more baked goods. I really liked some things at the downtown place, like the pumpkin cake, and it would be nice if whatever develops here has something like that. —NickSchmalenberger

2007-02-16 16:52:26   I'm sad to see Cafe Roma go. It was nice being able to sit there and use my computer for hours on end. —GreggAlexander

2007-02-16 20:58:48   Thanks for all your support over the years. We're going to have a party Sat. Feb 24th at Little Prague for employees and regulars. —DanielReid

2007-02-20 00:02:12   Damn I can't believe the downtown Roma closed so quickly. After going there for 15 years. Writing probably half of my dissertation in the place. I didn't get a last cup at the Roma. —JimEvans

2007-02-27 12:39:01   All I have to say is: :( —MeghanSkaer

2007-02-27 12:44:21   Formerly, refutably not the worst coffee in Davis. Sorry to see the Roma die here in Davis. Been a cusrtomer since 1986 when Roma was on the corner of 3rd and A. Rest in peace. —ChebaccoThirty

2007-02-28 19:38:42   Really sad to see cafe roma go.... I enjoyed hosting photo club meetings there and just being able to relax. I know it sounds cheesy, but that place is kind of legendary for a lot of us who spent any sort of time there on a regular basis. RIP campus roma.... —AndrewLeonard

2007-03-13 09:41:53   I miss going to Roma between classes and studying and hanging out and napping on the couches. I don't think there's anywhere even remotely similar to it in Davis. It will be mourned. —EmyFargey

2007-03-28 14:48:58   I have just read the back-and-forth between Nicholas and Zachary with great delight - but what a bunch of erudite hogwash! If I has to choose sides, however, I would have to go with Nicholas because he's right: the Roma is a filthy bastion of squalor that would make even Pigpen uneasy (and Zachary's response to that was just a bunch of equivocating nonsense rife with one fallacy after another. —CoffeeLover

"I too am sad and I feel like something is missing because something is. What some feared is now gone — sharing space with the poor, the wise, the diverse as well as having community, familiarity, support, and enjoyment." —Sandy Coldiron, former manager of the E Street Roma, in piece in The Flatlander.

2007-07-12 11:38:51   I was in Davis back after Memorial Day. In bike ride between around 3rd & C and the campus, I ran across two well dressed people looking at the site that was once Campus Roma. I talked with them and they mentioned they are representatives for Wells Fargo and they were thinking of putting a branch office there. In my opinion, it would not fit too well with the character of that part of the street.

Also some rhetorical questions, the glass pane that has an image of a man upside down, how long has it been there, who was the artist and what will happen to it if significant changes are made to the building. Will there be an attempt to save that piece of glass ? —BradCuppy

2007-07-12 15:15:55   On their website College Town Realty was asking over $6000/month rent for the old Roma space ($3.25 per square foot), plus tenant pays all taxes and utilities. If it's La Bou going in they're going to have to sell a lot of coffee and sandwiches to make that rent. I feel sorry for anyone who leases from College Town Realty. Ching and Lucy Chang will squeeze them for every penny they can get. Probably Wells Fargo can afford it. —SteveGreen

2008-06-05 08:03:43   The glass man is now gone ! In my opinion, I thought it was cool and made the place unique ! —BradCuppy

2009-10-17 22:18:19   There are few places I can think of which make me feel deeply sad to see gone. Cafe Roma, the 3rd & University especially, is one of them. I don't know the owners, managers, or workers, but they made it a really warm, friendly place (incidentally, something the replacement has none of). My deepest respect to each of you! Cafe Roma was much more than a coffee shop. It was the first place I went to when I arrived in Davis -for its bulletin board. You could use the free WiFi all day, and they wouldn't ask you to leave or even buy anything. If you needed to use the bathroom, you could duck in there. You could meet friends, chat, they held concerts and poetry readings. If I had my way, I'd have the city pay the rent for them just to be as a community service. Sadly missed. —SteveDavison

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