Past all the bars, avoiding the busy New York traffic; all of a sudden there it was.
A friend had led me and my dad to this spot saying that it was a great meeting place. Seeing so many bars on the route didn’t set well with me, but as soon as I saw this place I knew he was right.
Caffe Reggio boasts being around since the ’20’s. Not a bad thing to boast considering most “old” coffee places you’ll find were started in the mid ’70’s. Their awning sign, however, boasted that they serve the “Original Cappuccino.” We’ll have to see about that.
Walking inside, a rustic sight met my eyes. The small building had room for about 20 comfortable people, but was cramming about double that into the sardine-like seating. The awesome thing was that nearly every seat was taken! I noted this before grabbing a seat myself. Unlike the hip, Mac-loving crowd I had seen at Think Coffee, Caffe Reggio was filled with older men and women. The type of people that were there to enjoy a night stroll and a good book. Many had friends with them and were chatting so that the room was filled with a dull roar.
Looking at the menu, a beautiful list of espresso drinks smiled back at me:
That’s right folks, this place is legit. No “kahuna kapow mochas” or “double chocolate artery clogger breves” to be found here. Only straight up, Italian style espresso.
And yet, as promising as the menu looked, I still had to do a review. So, I ordered a hazelnut cappuccino from the barista and sat back to fully admire my surroundings.
The building truly was old- probably hadn’t changed much since the ’20’s. The wallpaper was scratched and faded in most areas. Paintings lined the walls all with Italian feels to them. The chairs were wooden, and the lights had a reddish tint to them. If I ever lived in New York, this would be the place I would come to kick back and do some intellectual thinking or have a stimulating conversation. It had an atmosphere of old brilliance.
My coffee came, and the first thing I noticed was the thick layer of milk foam on the top. And I mean THICK. This baby was fluffy like a cloud, and took up about the top 1/3 of the drink. That’s what I call a cappuccino. After doing some dry slurping, I finally reached the coffee. I expected some kind of raw taste with a hint of hazelnut, but that’s not at all what I actually got. My drink was sweet. Like, really sweet. Like, Dutch Bros. sweet. I was rather surprised, and it took me a second to actually process what I was drinking. After a few more drinks, the initial shock wore off and I was able to judge the coffee. It was smooth and crisp with a note of fruitiness about it. Almost definitely Arabica beans. Asking the barista slipped my mind as I got lost in the conversation with those I was with. Here’s what I do recall from the experience however:
The coffee reminded me of a cherry tree: a rough middle with plenty of sweetness to go around. The coffee wasn’t slap-in-the-face hard stuff, but it had a definite kick to it. I was getting jittery sitting down after about half of my drink. The foam provided a nice solid base to go back to, and I was glad I had gone with the cappuccino because of this. Regardless of the quality of their coffee, whoever had made this drink definitely knew how to handle milk. The espresso really wasn’t anything to write home about, but the style of the drink did make it all worth it.
For any New Yorker’s out there, or for those who are planning on traveling there in the future:
Visit Caffe Reggio. This place is dripping with history. You won’t regret meeting the baristas and taking a look around. If you’ve got friends and something to chat about, this is definitely the place to go.
So, great coffee? Nah. Great cappuccino? Yes. Great conversation? Definitely.
The Coffee Guy