Right off BART’s Plasticuffs Station (Mission & 16th Sts.), across of Cafe Los Olvidados, this has never been an attractive part of the city — though mostly because of who might accost you on the sidewalk. (I’ve long called it Plasticuffs Station because of the frequency of finding perps face down on the plaza in plasticuffs, with SFPD squad cars parked on the sidewalks nearby.) Thus, this hip and popular Italian-to-the-core wine bar and restaurant seems a bit out of place, but that’s gentrification for you.

It is almost always overcrowded due to the small size — with a few tables and a crowded bar in front and a large table with some outdoor patio seating in back. The owners are really into the authentic Italian food, salumi, and wine — and I commend them for knowing to stop before that authenticity reached their coffee bean sources.

Entering Bar Bambino: what's this doing on 16th Street? Inside Bar Bambino - packed as always

At the bar is an exposed three-group La Marzocco with missing paneling (are espresso bars getting to be like hot rodders at the drive-in parking lot now?). This is one of only two SF locations that serves Andrew Barnett‘s Ecco Caffè coffee (the other being the Mojo Bicycle Cafe on Divisadero St.), and they offer it in both his Northern and Southern Italian Espresso roasts. (A choice of two espresso styles at an SF restaurant? Score!)

Trying the darker, Southern Italian roast, they produce a short shot with it, with an even, medium brown, somewhat full crema. The cup has some bright notes despite its overall balance and more pepper and cedar-like flavors. The barista grinds to order, but they oddly pre-pour it into metal pitchers instead of directly into their classic brown Nuova Point cups. Still, this is excellent restaurant espresso. The results here make me wonder why all the aspiring high-end food restaurants swear by Equator Estate Coffees (and universally underwhelm with it) when Ecco seems like the perfect antidote to distinguish themselves.

Read the review of Bar Bambino.

Race ya for papers? The exposed La Marzocco in Bar Bambino. The Bar Bambino Southern Italian espresso