Our Espresso in Torino and Piemonte series now turns to Bra, Italy. Bra carries a lot more influence than its 29,000 residents might suggest. For one, it is the unofficial capital of Piemonte’s Roero area — with a downtown that’s deceptively bustling for its size. Bra is also the world headquarters for Slow Food.

Walking alongside Converso Bra Decoration outside of Converso Bra

Of 18 bars in all of Italy singled out for their café excellence by the Bar d’Italia del Gambero Rosso (i.e., awarded 3 tazzine and 3 chicchi), Converso Bra is clearly one of them. It is a relatively small corner establishment near downtown Bra, and it can be easy to miss. It has turn-of-the-19th-century looks, but there is also covered outdoor seating along Via Cavour, across the street from the San Giovanni Decollato church, that help give its nearby location away.

It is by no means a large space. A third of the storefront (entering from Via Serra) is dedicated to its excellent pastries and sweets. But in back there is a cozy mirrored coffee bar with several tables and dark wood. It’s a prime neighborhood location for a great caffè in the morning before work. And while the pastries are excellent, a word of warning: definitely eat with it wrapped in the treated paper napkins supplied on the tables. Touching the sticky-sweet surface of those things is like handling a mouse glue board.

Between the main bar and the pasticceria at Converso Bra Converso Bra's Leva 3 La San Marco machine gets a morning workout

Using a three-group Leva 3 manual La San Marco, the barista (often a woman here) pulls espresso shots with a medium brown, even, full crema of good texture and thickness. It has a complex herbal flavor — cloves, etc. — that is quite unusual for Illy beans. There can be a slight sourness, not unpleasant, to the cup at times. Served in Illy logo IPA cups. A bit pricey at €1.20, but you’re paying for some of Italy’s finest.

Read the review of Pasticceria Converso Bra.

The Converso Bra cappuccino - with sticky pastry The Converso Bra espresso

Main entrance to Converso Bra