This is the newer outlet (opened June 2004) of the greater sister café next to the Italian Cultural Institute. Inside it has a bright, modern interior decorated with colored glass and several indoor tables — plus some modern sofa and chairs set up in the back.
The attaction here, and the reason the owners opened this location, is the sidewalk seating in front. They have over a dozen sidewalk tables with Lavazza umbrellas, all of which are perched towards the end of Market St. at the foot of the Embarcadero. The clock tower of the SF Ferry Building rises across a plaza of tourist-trapping vendors and Muni trolley cars. Occasionally patrons out front are also entertained by the likes of San Francisco’s street opera stars, Robert Close and Litz Plummer. At other times, a DJ starts the happy hour inside.
Il Massimo Lounge specializes in panini, gelato, and dolci as well as espresso. Their service is slightly disorganized, but they use a three-group Faema E92 Elite to produce a good espresso. One of their baristas will ask if you like it short or tall — and will say that’s “the way it’s supposed to be” if you order the former.
They serve espresso straight into the cup with a pale crema with a thinner but sturdy layer of microfoam (that can sometimes vary down to a pale ring if they’re busy and leave it unattended). However, it can sometimes vary to a richer, medium brown crema of appreciable thickness. It is mostly smoky/tarry with a taste of some pungent/herbal flavor, spice, and a little woodiness (pine). But if they brew it too hot, as sometimes happens, it can lack body and structure and taste rather bland. Be sure to ask for a short shot. Served in Lavazza logo IPA cups with occasional grinds at the bottom.
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