This is a bright, Old World-styled café with modern art, tall windows, and classic background jazz music. Inside it is clean and sophisticated with an older, distinguished downtown clientele. San Francisco just doesn’t have enough cafés like this anymore.

In addition to espresso, they also serve sandwiches and hot dishes at several café tables, and there are two outdoor tables shared with the eatery next door.

Sutter St. entrance to Caffè Bianco The Caffè Bianco espresso station

Caffè Bianco proudly displays their support for Fair Trade coffee, however, and they’ve done so long before it became de rigeur for SF’s granola set. And if you order a meal here, their barista wisely asks if you prefer your espresso afterwords (ding!: good answer).

While the espresso here has never been poor, it’s never been that notable either. It has, however, improved a bit in the past year or so — they are now making some of the best espresso they ever produced. (The nearby Starbucks that moved in a couple years ago perhaps made them step things up a notch.) But consistency remains a trouble spot.

Using a two-group Pasquini, they serve espresso warm and of a modest size with a medium brown, even crema. (Formerly, the cup could run more hot or cold, of a large pour at times, and occasionally with only a wide ring of crema). It has a slightly nutty, malty flavor with an peppery edge that borders on a drip coffee, but it’s clearly an espresso. For cups, they vary from French Arcopal to U.S. Buffalo.

Read the updated review.

The Caffè Bianco espresso Caffè Bianco clientele are rarely in a caffeine-induced rush