Part 2: Café’s
Milanese Café Experience (and essentially all cafes in Italy)
What it’s not: a ‘takeaway’ coffee stop like Starbucks… Cafés here are a place to relax and get a great coffee: espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, etc. The idea here is to start your morning or end your day in a civilized manner (read: not in a rush). Also, don’t ask for a ‘coffee’ to go…. Italians are never seen walking down the street with a coffee in their hands – it’s simply not done; so don’t do it… ever!
What it is: a quintessentially European tradition where you take some personal time, relax, and enjoy your coffee. Italian lifestyle is very leisurely, polychronic, and moves at its own pace – this takes a great deal of patience to accept as an American, but once you adopt it, just the thought of having a coffee while you walk seems blasphemous.
How it works: You first order and pay at the cassa or cashier. Do yourself a favor here and get one of the classics: caffe, cappuccino (cappuccio if you want to really sound like a local), macchiato, or a nice icy caffe shakerato on a sweltering Milanese day. If you’re looking to sit at a table, expect to pay a surcharge for table service. Regardless, tipping is not expected for a coffee as is customary in Southern Italy.
You’ll probably have the option of a cornetto (it’s an Italian brioche, which is essentially a rookie version of the French croissant) or a variety of pastries, depending on where you go. Skip these wasted carbs and head to one of our favorites on the following list for some real treats.
The Milanese are the busiest amongst the Italians and essentially inhale their espresso at the bar so quickly that it’s hard to think they even enjoy it; however, it’s such an integral part of the Italian day that you’d be a fool not to partake.
When it takes place: All day – there’s never a time when having a quick shot of caffe is frowned upon; if anything, it’s encouraged.
Check out our first blog post in this series (Part 1: Aperitivo) on this cooler than cool cafe. Not only do they do an amazing aperitivo here, but MAG also does cocktails and coffee, really, really well. If they offer to add cocoa powder to your cappuccio, you’d better accept.
If you’re looking for a sleek place to get coffee and you’re in the middle of nowhere, I bet there’s a Princi nearby – it’s a modern café chain that offers great coffee, a variety of home made pastries, and delicious fresh baked focaccia (in almost every variety you can imagine).
We are also very suspicious of a possible partnership with Panarello – a pastry shop with unforgettable cannoncini – literally ‘little gun’ in Italian. These are basically little columns of pastry dough filled with rich cream. So, next time you stop by Princi, afterwards be sure to go next door or across the street to grab a cannoncino at Panarello!
- Things to look out for: Every location is designed differently, with an underlying modern-slick theme – Princi has locations all over Italy and even one in London.
- Favorite Drinks: Princi makes a solid cappuccino and it comes in a big mug by Italian standards, so you get a little more bang for your buck. It’s actually one of our favorite cappuccinos in Milan – aside from the big size they’re extra foamy (aka extra delicious). All coffees come with a small pastry bite but if you are going to order a pastry we recommend the sweet sesame twirl.
Important Details: In every location there are separate sections for coffee, focaccia, pasta, and pastries – this helps lines move during busy times so make sure you get in the correct line!
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 7AM – 8PM / Sunday: 9:30AM – 7:30PM
- Address: multiple locations throughout Milan…our favorite is the one in Piazza XXV Aprile
Bastianello is one of the old “grand cafés” of Milan – high ceilings, chandeliers, old uniforms for the baristas, and grandiose displays of pastries and desserts. The second you walk in you can feel its historical and luxurious roots. This old-style café is posh – the service is even known to be a bit snobbish but the product is certainly worth it. Not only is Bastianello known for their great coffee, like their caffe shakerato with a touch of vanilla liquor… but also their candies, pastries, and gelato.
- Things to look out for: Like I said earlier, don’t be turned off by the snobby servers – it’s part of the history and image of this grand cafe. If you go for anything, grab a caffe shakerato – it can’t be beat.
- Favorite drinks: Caffe shakerato, the classic ‘Bastianello’ version – with vanilla liquor.
If you decide to sit at one of their tables on the terrace, know that you’ll be paying a surcharge for table service. It’s better to sit at the bar and watch an old-school barista craft the perfect caffe.
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday: 7AM – 8PM
- Address: Via Borgogna, 5
A restaurant, gourmet food store, bar, and great café all under one roof – that’s probably the best way to describe our neighborhood favorite, Taglio. Open every day for breakfast, lunch, aperitivo, dinner, we fell in love with Taglio for every thing, especially the coffee.
Taglio has an American flair on the classic Italian coffee experience….they serve the classics, as well as new-American favorites like cold brew. Aside from their offerings, they have a well-curated assortment of coffee roasts: Ethiopian, Columbian, Kenyan, Ecuadorian…and trust me, these roasts are a million miles better than the age-old Starbucks “Sumatra House” blends.
Things to look out for: If you are looking for something to go with your coffee besides the classic cornetto, you can order American-style pancakes, Eggs Benedict, or classic omelets.
- Favorite drinks: Though it seems ironic to drink an American style cold brew in Italy, it may be one of the best cold brew coffees out there. Honestly, all their coffee is delicious because they source great beans; however, if you’re looking for something sweet, their frappe is a definite crowd pleaser.
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday: 8AM – 12AM / Saturday & Sunday: 8:30AM – 12AM
- Address: Via Vigevano, 10
Ah, the illustrious Milan favorite! Cioccalati Italiani is a café chain that offers a ton of coffee drinks, both classic and dolci (the dolci are the ones you go for though). You can order a liquid chocolate in white, milk, or dark…or a coffee frappe…or a million other unique coffee and chocolate drinks. Aside from their coffee, they are famous for their gelato, which comes in a cone filled with the chocolate of your choice (people love the ‘Crema Bologna’ and dark chocolate gelato).
Cioccalati Italiani is also a great after-dinner date-night spot: they serve dessert for two, like ‘strawberries and cream’ with chocolate filled waffle cones…
- Things to look out for: Every location is different (kind of like Princi). For instance, the one that just opened on the Naviglio Grande doesn’t serve the coffee drinks – only gelato, crepes, and churros.
These oases of chocolate get extremely busy at night, so try to go during an off time to get the full experience without any hassle.
- Hours of Operation: hours vary by location
- Address: multiple locations throughout Milan
Imagine a living-room plus a large loft converted into a bakery/café and you’ll end up with Pavé: you feel like you’re in “Grandma’s house” (something the owners pride themselves on) while having a coffee at the communal table in the comfortable and cozy downstairs. Great vibes, even better food, and a hip/young staff makes you feel like you’re at home in Brooklyn instead of Milan.
- Things to look out for: Pavé is known for their pastries and rightfully so – not your typical Italian pasticceria. Think French-style pastries, artisanal breads (good bread is nearly impossible to come by in Italy by the way), and great pies. What else to eat these delicious pastries with than a great cappuccino? Lunch is also a high point where they serve paninis and fantastic salads – a rarity here in Italy.
- Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday: 8AM – 8PM / Saturday & Sunday: 8:30AM – 7PM
- Address: Via Cristoforo Colombo, 27