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July 19, 2006|Amy Scattergood

Grounds for celebration

Espresso from Intelligentsia Coffee is heady stuff: deep and rich and complex, with a chocolaty flavor and no hint of bitterness. It's made its way from the Midwest to L.A. with a little help from friends.

When founder Doug Zell was just starting Intelligentsia in Chicago 11 years ago, he befriended an extremely sleep-deprived line cook at Charlie Trotter's who'd come by Zell's coffee shop early most mornings for a cup of espresso. Being a workhorse for Trotter meant he got about as much sleep as a long-haul trucker-- and the young chef was badly in need of a shot of terrific joe.

Sona's David Myers -- the onetime Trotter slave -- is still a huge fan of Intelligentsia coffee and serves it at his La Cienega restaurant. You can get a demitasse of Intelligentsia espresso at Sona, or across the street at the bakery Boule, or at Joe's in Venice; all three are fanatically loyal to the brand.

But the only place in town where you can get the beans is at the new Pazzo Gelato in Silver Lake (where you can also drink the stuff and ingest it in gelato). Pazzo Gelato stocks the Black Cat espresso beans, both regular and decaf, as well as Intelligentsia house blend coffee beans. Something about Silver Lake must attract the more caffeine-attuned crowd: Zell plans to open an Intelligentsia retail store -- the first outside of Chicago -- there sometime before the end of the year.

Intelligentsia espresso beans, available at Pazzo Gelato, 3827 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 662-1410, $14 per pound.

-- Amy Scattergood

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