Ceres has garnered its reputation as Tucson’s quaint, European-style, walk-up pasta spot. It serves intricately handmade pasta, freshly baked bread and pastries, soul-soothing espresso, and soft-serve gelato.
It started in 2019 with Carolyn O’Connor tucked in the back of the El Presidio shop, turning out tiny shells of cavatelli, pale green spinach tagliatelle, red wine bucatini made with Cabernet Sauvignon, and inky black, activated charcoal tagliolini.
O’Connor is from upstate New York just outside of Syracuse. She first moved to Tucson in 2014 after wanting a change in pace from her job in a neuroscience research lab. Fresh pasta was the norm back home. After unsuccessful searches around Tucson for handmade, fresh pasta that was close to what she had in New York, she decided to make it herself.
At family gatherings and dinners with friends, everyone raved about the pasta, giving O’Connor the sense that she was on to something.
After living in Tucson until 2017, she moved back to Syracuse to open the Ironwood Café. She found joy in her new leadership role in which she could be creative with the menu, be on her feet around the café, run the social media, and assemble a team to make the business successful.
“That was my first taste of what it would be like to run a business,” said O’Connor. “I loved it, and I had never felt so challenged in my life.”
O’Connor ran the Ironwood Café for two years before ultimately deciding to move back to Tucson in 2019 to be with her husband Ben Schneider and pursue pasta professionally, opening her own pasta shop, Ceres.
Ben’s mother is Jo Schneider, owner of LaCo and the former Bentley’s House of Coffee and Tea. After opening Ceres, O’Connor was able to use the LaCo kitchen across the street to bake bread and pastries to serve at Ceres. As the business grew for O’Connor, and as things at Bentley’s were coming to an end, Jo offered O’Connor the location to turn into another pasta restaurant, which led to the opening of Noodies in April 2022.
“To me, Ceres is so precious,” O’Connor said. “Trying to replicate it would do Ceres a disservice but also do the new place a disservice. There are so many things that can be done at Ceres that are really hard to scale up with.”
Ceres is the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain, and fertility. O’Connor has three older sisters and grew up spending lots of time in the kitchen with her sisters and mother. Ceres stands for everything O’Connor hopes to showcase through her restaurants, and now, with the opening of a new location, she is continuing the ways of Ceres in using her food to create new beginnings.
Jo had spent 11 years running LaCo day in and day out before turning control over to her son and O’Connor during the pandemic. Fortunately, Jo had set up connections with the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Museum through a Rio Nuevo grant to open up a new restaurant in the museum.
After discussing multiple iterations of what the space could be, O’Connor and her husband decided to make it a café and bakery to highlight the bounty of baked goods found at Ceres and Noodies.
The new location is called the Dandelion Café and Bakery and is set to open in January 2023.
It will allow the bakers to have their own space to work within and showcase flakey, sweet treats and bread, simple sandwiches and salads, and espresso options. Though pasta won’t be served at the Dandelion, Ceres is conveniently located across the street.
The Dandelion building is made of old adobe, and the interior will have white walls with pastel accents throughout. There will be both interior and patio seating, and the café will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. to coincide with the hours of the Presidio Museum, found at 196 N. Court Ave. The museum property already possesses a liquor license, so canned and bottled beverages will also be available for sale in the café.
With Ceres no longer open in the morning, the Dandelion Café and Bakery will serve as a more robust alternative for the meandering museum-goers, the walk-in morning commuters, the newspaper-wielding neighbors, and the hungry downtown shoppers looking for quick, quality food to fuel the day.
Stay tuned for more information on Dandelion Café and Bakery, which will be located inside the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson Museum at 196 N. Court Ave. In the meantime, Ceres is located at 77 W. Washington St. For more information, visit cerestucson.square.site. Noodies is located at 1730 E. Speedway Blvd. For more information, follow Noodies on Instagram.
Jake O’Rourke is a Tucson native, writer, editor, and musician. He enjoys tasting his way through Tucson’s copious food and craft beer options, listening to live music, and writing about the experiences he has within these endeavors.