Our Espresso in Torino and Piemonte series continues with a visit to a Piemonte-based chain of roaster/cafés, called Casa del Caffè Vergnano. Caffè Vergnano has opened 16 roaster/cafés throughout Europe, located in cities as varied as Torino, Milan, Nice, Munich, Düsseldorf, London, one we stopped at in Asti (rated 2 chicchi and 2 tazzine in the 2008 Bar d’Italia del Gambero Rosso ), and one in Alba we’ll review here.

Entrance to Alba's Casa del Caffè Vergnano 1882 Petroncini roaster inside Casa del Caffè Vergnano

Past the bags of unroasted green beans in front with a large Petroncini roaster, you follow an unusual custom for this area but one that’s common for most of Italy: paying first at the separate register (la cassa). At the rear of the café they have extensive, rather upscale seating and food service. Just before it is an espresso bar with dueling two-group Elektra machines.

This place is particularly popular with Alba’s weekend tourists. They serve espresso with a decent, coagulated layer of medium brown crema — albeit somewhat thin in size. The thin body in the cup, however, doesn’t hold up as well. It also has a flavor of medium spices. It’s clearly a good cup — but this kind of local, on-site roasting raises your expectations for freshness, the fullness of the crema and flavor, etc. But instead, it serves as proof that local roasting isn’t apparently everything, and Italian consumers seem to believe that. Offered at a not unreasonable €0.90.

Read the review of Casa del Caffè Vergnano.

Bags of unroasted coffee at Casa del Caffè Vergnano Working the Casa del Caffè Vergnano Elektra

The Casa del Caffè Vergnano espresso

UPDATE: Dec. 28, 2007
A Milan-based location of Caffè Vergnano was also mentioned (and misspelled as “Caffe Vergnanao”) in the Dec ’07-Jan ’08 issue of Barista Magazine — in Anastasia Chovan’s (aka, “the Clover girl”) article on this year’s Host Milan show. The author also noted how the high-end stuff in the States often beats the best in Italy, but she doesn’t seem aware that Milan has some of the worst espresso in all Italy.