Lino’s Coffee brings Italian flavors to Speedway’s Main StreetSRC Member
June 19, 2012
Lino’s Coffee in Speedway puts an Italian face on your java in the new building that houses the headquarters for racing company Dallara
The first thing you notice when you walk into Lino’s Coffee is the immensity of the place — a sky-high ceiling, giant front windows, a bar shaped like an oval track.
Clearly, this is a place built for big crowds, which is pretty much the opposite of most coffee houses in America.
But then again, Speedway has always been about big crowds, thanks to that 21/2-mile oval on 16th Street.
These days, the biggest thing happening in Speedway is the redevelopment of its little downtown area — where the main drag (Main Street) has been upgraded to be more pedestrian- and development-friendly. The new Dallara building — with Lino’s on the corner and a museum planned on the other corner — sits like a shining monument to the town’s future.
Next door is an empty lot that will soon be home to another race-related operation — headquarters for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.
If the strong Italian espresso drinks don’t get you pumped up, then surely the sign of new growth in a rather sleepy little town will.
It certainly has redevelopment officials excited.
“One of our goals was to bring more restaurants to Main Street, and Lino’s is a big part of that now,” said Scott Harris, executive director of the Speedway Redevelopment Commission. “And the real neat thing is this is the first one they’ve built in America.
“We hope to lure even more businesses that are Italian in origin.”
And why not? Dallara hails from the same Italian city, Parma, as the coffee shop.
Lino’s is a two-decade-old business founded in Parma but already with coffee shops scattered across Italy, France, Switzerland, Slovakia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.
At the same time the new Speedway shop opened, Lino’s also launched or began work on shops in Pakistan and Singapore, as well as other European countries.
The shop offers a variety of coffee drinks — from sweet dark chocolate Morocco’s to icy Fruttino’s — along with a menu of sandwiches, soups, pasta and salads that is already starting to evolve.
Julie LaFore, the local manager, said the goal of the shop is to be authentically Italian with its breads, meats and cheeses. And the feedback from crowds has been good. But, she added, the menu is already getting upgraded in response to customers that have suggested a few “American” options.
“We are starting to round out our menu to include some American fare,” she said. “A new breakfast sandwich has already been invented, and we are going to continue to expand on that.”
Crowds have been light in the morning but tend to get busy around lunchtime.
“We are already seeing a lot of folks coming in who are from the area,” LaFore said. “We have a great regular bunch that come in from Allison and Praxair. Each day we are making more food, prepping more food and running out, which is great.”
Changes will be coming rapidly on two other fronts.
Lino’s has a gelato machine that is one part away from being up and running. Plans call for new patio furniture to be in soon, and LaFore envisions afternoon and evening crowds enjoying frozen treats this summer.
And, the coffee shop is close to getting its alcohol license — another enticement for the late-day crowds.
“We really wanted to be open for the race, and we were. But now we are starting to finesse things more and grow more,” she said.
Lino’s employs 14.
LaFore, who hails from Milwaukee, has an Italian heritage and had just taken Italian language classes when she got this job and was flown to Parma for training.
For Speedway, the hope is that this is the first of many new faces and projects to move into Main Street and the area that surrounds it. Main Street is the first milestone in the town’s renewal, a key part of a $500 million investment to breathe new life into 400 acres, nestled just south of the most famous racetrack in the world.
Just down the street, a new health pavilion is under construction, and the town is in the process of realigning 10th Street a bit to the north to provide more land in front of the huge Allison Transmission plant.
And while Speedway may not grow in population much more than the 12,000 it has now, there is the potential for some housing (condos, apartments) to pop up.
Lino’s joins a cluster of eateries that includes longtime traditional spots like Charlie Browns Pancake & Steak House and Dawson’s, a pizza place, a Mexican sandwich shop and, just recently, a new yogurt shop.
So why not more?
“I think we have lots of good land here, and it’s truly shovel-ready,” Harris said.
Call Star reporter Dan McFeely at (317) 444-6253.