Fox in the Snow Cafe is now open in Italian Village. Here's our first look at the tasty pastries and coffee coming out of this hip new spot.

One of my favorite parts about this job is getting to see visions come to life. When I first met Lauren Culley and Jeff Excell months ago, their Italian Village coffee shop and bakery was nothing more than a big room with blue tape on the floors outlining where the coffee bar and kitchen would be built. Here, they expounded on their vision for a bright and welcoming space where guests had full view of everything-from windows surrounding the bakery kitchen to seats on the side of the coffee bar.

"This was exactly what I saw," says Culley, recalling the empty space and now looking around the packed Fox in the Snow Cafe, which opened this week. "We've been really humbled and blown away by the response."

Excell and Culley bring years of experience with them, having met at Blue Bottle Coffee in New York-Culley worked with pastry and Excell with coffee and front of house. And it shows. Their rehabbed garage space in a nondescript gray building on Fourth Street is light and airy, but not cold. There's warm wood seating, lots of strategically positioned plants (even a tree) and refillable bottles of water and glasses on every table-a smart, and welcoming touch.

The food menu is a list of staples from Lauren's repertoire-treats she enjoys making and would want to eat herself, she says. Fluffy doughnuts are filled with gooey pastry cream that nicely balances out a sweet dusting of sugar. Biscuits are handmade buttermilk topped with honey butter while they're still warm from the oven. I loved the dense and soft sticky buns with a strong cinnamon glaze and crunchy pecans. But by far the two standouts I've tried are the hand pie-a flaky puff pastry with a blueberry filling-and the breakfast sandwich piled high with a souffled egg, candied bacon and a creamy mustard sauce that would be too rich on its own; it adds punch to the sweet and mild mix here.

The biggest change customers may see soon is the addition of more savory items, including a savory hand pie or scone special this weekend, and possibly a biscuit sandwich, Culley says.

Excell brings his passion for coffee, sourcing all beans from Tandem Coffee Roasters (the owners are friends of the couple) from Portland, Maine. All drinks come in one size, and are made to order, even down to regular coffee, which is all pour-over and made right in front of you.

Sit at one of two stools located on the far left side of the counter, and you'll make Excell's day. These seats were intentionally added to bring guests and baristas closer together with Excell hoping customers would sit here and ask questions and make conversation. Fun fact I learned when I sat here: They're serving two kinds of espresso blends, including a single origin-the lemony and acidic Ethiopian Ayele-you can't find anywhere else. I'll be back to try that and what Excell and Culley are calling the coffee menu "sleeper"-the Affogato made with Jeni's Salted Caramel ice cream topped with a shot of espresso.

For now, Fox in the Snow hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; the cafe is closed on Mondays.