Since we visited a few notable Peninsula cafés at the beginning of the year, some locals mentioned this neighborhood café. Il Piccolo Caffé has been in operation since 1990, and it has survived in the suburbs despite a Starbucks moving across the street in 2004.

It adds a bit of local character as an Italian-themed coffee hang out, with outdoor sidewalk seating in front and some bench seating at the separate entrance along the side of the building. The front windows are large and let in a lot of light — in contrast with the darker interior of darker wood tables and chairs, classic art posters of Italian villages, stained glass, and faux wood stove in the back. Despite jazz music on the radio, it’s a relatively quiet place.

Entrance to Il Piccolo Caffé Dark interior inside Il Piccolo Caffé

They get their beans from the little-known Peter James Coffee, which offers dozens of different roasts. This can be a bit problematic for a small operation, as they must support an extensive product line with few resources. Not only does Peter James offer far too many flavored coffees, but this café offers custom blends from them as well — selling their coffee retail on site.

Using an old, three-group La San Marco, they do not grind to order — pulling shots with a swirling, relatively thin, medium brown crema. The flavor is rather flat: a plain mix of mild spices and little much else to note. This is a little surprising given that it is a modestly short shot in a classic brown ACF cup for doppio shots.

Sorry, Burlingame residents. While this location has garnered a lot of local support, sad to say, the espresso here isn’t all that much better than the Starbucks across the street. While we’re all for supporting local, independent cafés, they have to make espresso that at least looks better than that.

Read the review of Il Piccolo Caffé in Burlingame.

Il Piccolo Caffé and their three-group La San Marco The pale-looking Il Piccolo Caffé espresso