This newer café/pizza place lies in the little-known neighborhood of Dogpatch, just off the new SF Muni T line. It’s a small space with a couple of indoor tables and a few out front on the corner sidewalk. Just inside the door on the left is a small espresso bar: home to a two-group La Marzocco GB/5, and about five stools that surround it. They reportedly use a custom blend from Blue Bottle Coffee Company, and they also serve wine and beer.

Entrance to Piccino Cafe Piccino's La Marzocco GB/5 at the espresso bar

Their espresso shots are doubles by default, and they pull them with deliberate timing to produce a deep, medium brown crema with darker brown flecks and a foamy consistency. Served in classic brown Nuova Point cups, it has a potent herbal pungency, a syrup-like consistency, and some natural sweetness at the bottom. No one individual element excels in the cup, but they all work very well in harmony.

Read the review of Piccino Cafe.

The Piccino Cafe espresso

Now for the controversy…

I certainly love a great espresso no matter how it is made. But the Blue BottleLa MarzoccoNuova Point combination has come up more than a few times lately. It was just two weeks ago that I finally stumbled into Velo Rouge Cafe for roughly the exact same espresso/espresso pedigree. Of course, three years ago this kind of local quality would have moved me to tears. But there’s a difference between quality and “sameness”.

For example, SF may have a lot of excellent places to eat, but their menus rarely deviate much from each other (insert Niman Ranch/burrata cheese/organic, local beet salad here). Perhaps we are starting to get a little more like Italy — with a greater availability of good quality espresso, and yet suffering more from a certain sameness.

The good news is that the best espresso here is definitely giving Italy’s best some serious competition. However, I only hope to see more places pushing the boundaries and challenging the status quo.

Until its closure last year, Café Organica offered SF residents a taste of that. But today if you want to try espresso made from a rotation of single estate beans and/or from a choice of different roasts, for example, you have to travel to the likes of Barefoot Coffee Roasters or Caffé del Doge. Copycats are fine when it’s something excellent, but there’s clearly more than one way to make a great espresso.