Next to the Italian Cultural Institute, this large space opens up before you after walking through a narrow doorway. It feels like a former grade school cafeteria, complete with wood walls painted turquoise and white, mirrors, and small pictures and posters of Italy. Among dozens of indoor café tables (they have food service/deli counters located throughout), there’s even a homey corner with a black leather sofa, coffee table, and fireplace. Italian pop music often fills the place, reinforcing the fact that this isn’t your typical coffee house.
Like many Italian cafés, they have a dedicated beverage/espresso bar. There they also sell Caffè Mauro & Lavazza Super Crema (what they use for their espresso) by the bag. Using a rare (for SF) three-group Ariete machine, they pull an espresso with a moderate layer of very dark brown crema and serve it in Lavazza logo IPA cups. The coffee is black, with a smoky flavor and some subtle sweetness. This is a nice improvement over what they produced when I first visited years ago, which tended to be tarry.
One thing I like is that their morning barista asks if you prefer your shots short or long. And, as a default, he serves them short. Just the way it should be. (Why anyone would want a bitter, watery long shot is still beyond me.) And because their espresso can run from just good to very good, I have to rate them as ‘Inconsistent’. But it’s a good kind of inconsistent.
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