Caffe Vivaldi

I had more than a couple hours to kill before the 9pm set at Caffe Vivaldi last Thursday so I walked down from Penn Station as slowly as I could and wandered around the Village, eventually walking into Mamoun’s. While I typically avoid grimy places that are not jazz clubs, I frequent the restaurant in its East Village location because it makes me happy to sit there with falafel and hummus in hand, listening to Umm Kulthum or songs that are reminiscent of hers. A Middle Eastern music class I took on a whim in college introduced and deepened my appreciation for that music. I imagine jazz appreciation courses have much the same effect; they cultivate listeners who otherwise would have no connection to the music.

The West Village Mamoun’s had no seating and played some kind of Middle Eastern electronic fusion that I didn’t care for. So I went back outside and rambled past familiar venues like 55 Bar, LPR, and the Cornelia St. Cafe before ending up at Caffe Vivaldi. Upon observing the raucous crowd inside through the storefront, I hesitated to enter and circled the block once more to gather the necessary stamina. Come to think of it, I may have unconsciously been harboring adverse feelings from my last time at the venue when I was greeted with turd in the toilet.

Soon after the prior band wrapped up, the Marquès/Stinson/O’Farrill Trio began playing with their special guest, saxophonist Laura Andrea Leguia. Nodding along to another’s solo, Laura attempted to replicate the look of constipation favored by many a jazz musician but her face was much too pleasant to properly do so. It’s likely that she at least had the musical attributes of a jazz musician down but I couldn’t tell because there was too much competing for my attention. The guy sitting across from me started hum/singing another song complete with hand choreography, a car alarm went off outside, and patrons conversed loudly over their gluten-free pasta. Without knowing it, I too joined the crowd, yelling over the music to chat with my new friend across the table.

Caffe Vivaldi women's toiletCaffe Vivaldi women's room

Caffe Vivaldi is not always so chaotic. When I visited on a Sunday afternoon for a classical duo that time I found the present in the toilet, it was quiet and more of a listening room than a rowdy restaurant. There is one women’s room and one men’s room, both painted with reddish stripes.

GOP grapes?Caffe Vivaldi payphone by restrooms

The MSO Trio comprises Albert Marquès (piano), Walter Stinson (bass), and Zack O’Farrill (drums). Their website states that their music is “born of nights hanging out, eating lunch together, playing risk” and guarantees that you won’t merely hear a piano trio playing compositions if you listen to this trio. I don’t know about lunch but this much was true—I didn’t hear a piano trio, compositions, or anything over what essentially became dense white noise. It’s a good thing the jolly pianist Albert gave me a copy of their album because I have no idea what they sounded like.

Albert, who is from Barcelona in Spain, also gives us the translation of “Where’s the restroom?” in his first and native language, Catalan —

On és el lavabo?