When Pedro Manuel closed his design studio (Barreto Design) on Delaware Avenue in the heart of the city, it was a real bummer. I thought that it was such a fantastic opportunity for people to delve into modern furniture and design. It turns out, that after the studio closed, Pedro headed off to Antwerp, Belgium, to join up with some friends who were looking to open up a café. Apparently Pedro had planned on opening a café next door to his design studio on Delaware (as a Phase II), but never got the chance. He ended up realizing that dream in Antwerp, but soon after decided to simply summer there, and not stick with the new business. Why? “Because,” he told me. “Buffalo will always be my home from now on.” Gulp.
It’s times like these when an article just can’t do a story justice. To be there when Pedro, who hails from Portugal, expressed that Buffalo was now his “forever home”, thus passing up an opportunity to live in the revered port city of Antwerp, Belgium… it’s these types of unexpected sentimental encounters that make me extremely thankful that the winds of change have blown our way. And with those winds of change comes a change maker like Pedro, who will continue to work with his design clients in Buffalo. But more importantly, Pedro is in the midst of opening up his dream café on Porter Avenue, in the former Buffalo Rome.
There was a sullen sadness that spread throughout the city when Buffalo Rome operator Victor Mirando passed away earlier this year. It just so happens that Pedro was a big fan of Victor and Buffalo Rome – he would stop in on a regular basis for an espresso, and to talk shop with the beloved Buffalonian. I suppose that is the biggest consolation, when reflecting upon the passing of one of Buffalo’s most respected restaurateurs – in some manner, Victor’s spirit will be felt at the café for as long as Pedro has a hand in it. With that in mind, Pedro is taking the ball and running with it. Instead of simply reopening a turnkey operation, he is planning on incorporating a number of European design sensibilities into the mix… of course.
The new interior of the business, called VilaVerde Café, will be streamlined and contemporary. Pedro is working towards opening a plant-based lifestyle café that will feature minimalist interior décor, with a Euro-Asian influenced courtyard. The facade of the 70s concrete box building will take on a contemporary sculpturesque appearance, with black and white accents, and a bamboo wall feature. Eventually, a new opening will be cut into the side of the building, which will lead to the courtyard, providing for a breezy indoor/outdoor experience. Pedro also intends to mix in some out of the box artistic-design concepts that will provide a “wow” factor, while helping to increase the visibility of the café. As for the food offerings, the vegan menu will have a Mediterranean influence, sticking to simple, thoughtful meals.
The name VilaVerde Café essentially translates to “Green Villa”. Listening to Pedro describe the setting, it’s clear that he has some real vision for this café. He looks at Porter Avenue as the perfect place to pull it off – the perfect canvas for his latest work. “Just look at the surrounding architecture,” he told me. “And the sun sets over there [pointing westward down Porter]. There is so much potential here. There’s room to grow outward towards the street. I want this café to be a creative outlet for myself and others.”
Once open in September, VilaVerde Café will be open from 7am to dinnertime. Pedro plans on testing the hours, to see what people want. When the café is not running at capacity, say early morning, or mid-afternoon, his intentions are to utilize the courtyard for other purposes, such as design-oriented undertakings and yoga classes, which is a very European way of going about things. He wants people to keep on guessing what’s coming next, instead of simply selling coffee and baguettes. If anyone can do it, it’s Pedro. That’s because these things come naturally to him – instead of forcing ideas, they come naturally to him. He’s able to use all of his past business, design, and travel experiences to craft a café that he feels will be a real inspiration to people who are craving new coffee-fueled experiences.
VilaVerde Café | 388 Porter Avenue | Buffalo NY | Facebook