The man behind South Philadelphia’s Rim Café goes by “the Godfather,” though he hardly looks the type to stick a decapitated horse head between your sheets.
His mustachioed face grins from behind the counter, practically blending in with the busy collage plastered on the walls. The whole place has a sort of cluttered, collage feel to it – random furniture, a motorcycle near the door, overlapping music tracks – but it’s cozy and talking to the Godfather feels a lot like talking to a friend’s sweet, well-meaning uncle.
The prices are pretty astronomical, especially compared to your average box of Swiss Miss. You can plan on dropping around 10 bucks to get your hands on one of the volcano hot chocolates. But watching the Godfather, you realize that the price isn’t just about the high quality, imported chocolate ingredients, it’s also about the show.
He spins a two-tiered basin around with a clear mug, holding on a dollop of whipped cream before adding the steamed milk and chocolate combination that makes up the bulk of the drink.
Then, with the platform still spinning, the Godfather picks up a hunk of chocolate sitting on the counter. He shows it to his patrons first, like a wine sommelier – eyebrows raised, expecting big, impressed reactions before telling you what type of chocolate it is and shaving some on top of the spinning drink. He repeats the process seven or eight times, each time with increasing ceremony.
Chocolate with kiwi? Hazelnut? Parmesan? It doesn’t matter what your original drink order was. The Godfather is adding a bit of everything in the mix. This is not the streamlined process we’ve come to expect, but instead a full-fledged foodie performance. The Godfather treats his volcano hot chocolates as individual works of art, and it shows in his delicate grating motion and the serious look in his eyes.
The resulting drink is like nothing you’ve ever had before – frothy and thick – but somehow still airy with a thick layer of melting chocolate shavings on top. I used a spoon to get through mine and enjoyed every taste. While sitting at a table, enjoying my beverage, the Godfather emerged with a large vat of pink liquid.
“Rose syrup!” he exclaims.
He indicates that we should all stick out our fingers and he drizzles a bit of the syrup on each one, urging us to sample. Pleased with himself for pleasing his customers, he returns back to the kitchen.
Watching someone do something they love – and then understanding how well they do it – makes for an incredible experience. The Godfather insists that you don’t pay until after you’ve enjoyed your drink, and happily obliges requests for pictures, replying in his thick, French accent, “If you take a picture, I’m gonna love you better!”
At any given point, regardless of what you may have said to him – or not said to him – the Godfather will randomly yell out, “Make it happen!”
Are there any napkins? “Make it happen!”
I don’t have any nut allergies. “Make it happen!”
Slight smile in his direction. “Make it happen!”
Clearly, the “make it happen” philosophy has served the Godfather well thus far. His enthusiasm is infectious and the resulting atmosphere made the hot chocolate all the more enjoyable. Though it’s definitely not an every day indulgence, a trip to Rim Café is worth treating yourself to. Take a picture with the Godfather, bask in the weirdness, slip into a hot chocolate induced coma – just make it happen.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at email@example.com.