This Montgomery St. café is named for a famous Medieval bareback horse race in Italy’s Piemonte region, the parent restaurant around the corner (Palio d’Asti), and, well, Italian sandwiches. (Note: there’s a sister café on the UCSF campus.) They have many café tables in an airy space with large, high windows facing street traffic. This small chain specializes in panini and other lunch fare, but their espresso is very good – and surprisingly so.

Montgomery entrance of Palio Paninoteca The Faema behind Palio Paninoteca

A crew of Hispanic ladies serve espresso with a rich, dark brown, patterned crema that coats their Mr. Espresso-logo cups. The taste is rich, thick and sweet with characteristics of brown sugar and custard. Two variances that sometimes arise here are:

  1. the body of their espresso can run lighter on occasion, and
  2. the crema can be “merely” very good

Otherwise, they are rather consistent. This has been one of the finer SF espresso examples for the past few years. For a brief period in 2003, it was even the top rated espresso in San Francisco.

Read the updated review.

The Palio Paninoteca espresso You know a decent crema when it leaves a residue like this