Beat the Winter Blues at Riviera French Cafe

Good Bite

Pictured: A selection of coffee, tea, crepes, pastries and sandwiches at Riviera French Cafe. Photo Courtesy of Riviera French Cafe.

In Sarasota, we’re surrounded by beach vibes, but sometimes, we yearn to explore a new coastline. If jetsetting across the globe isn’t in the cards, head to The Mall at University Town Center, where the delightful Riviera French Cafe invites patrons to experience a taste of the good life on the French Riviera.

Owned and run by husband and wife team Andrea Chretien and Paloma Barcelo, Riviera French Cafe is a Mediterranean oasis. The couple, now in their mid-twenties, grew up in Cannes, France, and met in high school. They both studied at Skema Business School in the South of France, with Chretien focusing on marketing and Barcelo on entrepreneurship. While they spent a year at North Carolina State University, they decided to relocate to Sarasota, which holds a special place in Chretien’s family history. Sixty years ago, his grandmother began traveling to Sarasota, introducing him to the area. Through her husband, Barcelo became acquainted with the city that they now call home.

“We wanted to create much more than a cafe because we wanted to bring all that we have from France and the South of France. Every time we see a French cafe in the U.S., it’s inspired by Paris which everybody knows,” Barcelo says. “But we are proud of coming from the South of France and we think it’s different. It’s what we want people to experience when they come here.” The bright navy blue and white featured everywhere from the cafe’s bistro chairs to to-go cups reflects the stunning beauty of the French Riviera, which the couple describes as having a relaxed lifestyle where it’s common to spend a leisurely afternoon on a cafe terrace.

Guests can channel this carefree attitude while enjoying eats and drinks at the cafe, which imports most things, like coffee, tea, flour and syrups from France. “Our syrups just have sugar and flavor, and no additives or bad components,” Chretien adds. The couple sells Belleville coffee, a specialty brand roasted in Paris by one of their friends. Riviera French Cafe is the only place in the United States where patrons can purchase a of cup of this bold and flavorful coffee. Customers can also buy bags of Belleville coffee to enjoy at home. From being fair-trade to offering training in areas such as latte art, Belleville shares Chretien and Barcelo’s commitment to quality and ethically produced products.

The pair recommends trying the bestselling vanilla latte or escaping to the lavender fields of Provence in the South of France with the lavender latte. “It’s not so sugary, but it’s floral and light and can be served hot or iced,” says Chretien. Aside from drinks, the cafe stocks locally-made pastries like croissants and pain au chocolat. They also make scrumptious crepes such as the Nutella, strawberry and banana crepe, which celebrates the popularity of the Italian hazelnut spread in the neighboring South of France. The cafe has savory options as well, such as croissant and baguette sandwiches, and will soon expand the menu to include waffles, savory crepes and a signature Riviera coffee blend.

While Barcelo and Chretien are focused on providing delicious food and drinks to their patrons, they hope to grow the business even more by opening additional locations and building a lifestyle brand based on the French Riviera. “It’s not only about creating a cafe, but it’s about creating a brand and experience because we’re starting with the cafe, but we want to follow with a clothing brand, perfumes, candles and home decor,” Barcelo adds. “It’s a way to create a home away from home and bring people from Sarasota to the French Riviera ambiance and enjoy what the South of France has to offer. It’s all about luxury and quality.”

Riviera French Cafe, The Mall at University Town Center, Second floor in front of the elevator, 140 University Town Center Dr., Sarasota, 813-825-1750, rivierafrenchcafe.com.

Pictured: A selection of coffee, tea, crepes, pastries and sandwiches at Riviera French Cafe. Photo Courtesy of Riviera French Cafe.

Riviera French Cafe

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