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Panclog #45: NYC’s Caffe Reggio

April 22nd, 2019
Manhattan, NY
Capturing Cappuccinos

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Caffe Reggio is in the Greenwich Village which makes us diners the Village People.

Caffe Reggio stakes the claim to bringing the first cappuccino to the United States. The Panclog Pals decided we must try this historic cafe that opened its doors in 1927.

Location/Environment: Caffe Reggio is located in Greenwich Village steps away from where the folk supercenter, Gaslight Cafe, once sat.  It is down the block from the famous Comedy Cellar.  What a lovely night that would be, comedy and cappuccinos.

The environment is akin to your favorite museums’ room of renaissance paintings. Dark and intimate and filled with gorgeous artwork. And speaking of artwork, the original cappuccino machine is in the corner of the cafe. Here is that beautifully delicious piece of art:

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Service: I think good old Robb said it best when it comes to the service.  It isn’t the fastest service or best, but nor should it be. The Caffe Reggio takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to run from errand to errand but could spend time savoring and taking in art at the same time. Our cappuccinos were out quickly enough for us to enjoy a beverage while waiting for our food. Here is a nice picture of all of our cappuccinos conversing with each other:
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Menu/Selection: Caffe Reggio has a non traditional breakfast menu. From a simple fruit cup to eggs over the unusual breakfast vegetable, asparagus, Caffe Reggio has menu items that not many other restaurants carry.  It seems to be a testament to how Caffe Reggio views themselves.  They know who they are and won’t be adding menu items to simply cater to the masses.

What do the dudes think? Let’s see:

Jared! Canarino Voltaire with a Hazelnut Cappuccino

When Robb told me about a super old cafe that serves good food but also brought the cappuccino to the United States.  I thought back on all of the times my little sister, Mikayla, and I went cafe hopping in the afternoon.  (I think our personal best was 3 coffee shops in a couple hours.)  I stared into Robb’s beautiful brown eyes and said, “I’m in!”

Caffe Reggio offers their classic cappuccino in three varieties, original, hazelnut, and almond. When it was time to order, I witnessed Robb and Stephen order the original. Knowing that those dudes are sweeties and they will let me try their beverages, I ordered a hazelnut cappuccino.  The flavoring wasn’t a faint whisper of hazelnut.  It presented nicely enough, yet still allowed the espresso and steamed milk do their magic.

I have one piece of advice when it comes to the cappy. Be patient. As a man with a large mouth. I tend to drink too quickly.  This is a mistake when dealing with the beverages that take time and caution making.  So when it comes to cappuccinos, sip and savor.

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Caffe Reggio offered me with the chance to take a risk in the breakfast world.  I ordered the Canarino Voltaire which was described as “Poached eggs on a bed of yellow rice with a blend of three European cheeses.” My first thought was a pure judgement of rice for breakfast.  But fear not, this yellow rice was a delicious vessel for the eggs and cheese.  After this dish, I must say that rice is an underutilized grain in the modern american breakfast.

The poached eggs were just right. Some firmness to them, but still as runny as you need them to add that yolky goodness to the rice below.  The cheese on the dish is subtle.  The cheese acts as the most talented background singers. Making everything better.

The server brought some Louisiana hot sauce to finish the dish.  I would say the dish did not need the hot sauce. Although I am a fan of the heat, in my food and on the basketball court. So I sprinkled some of the fiery goodness and enjoyed the explosion.

The prices were New York fancy standard.  The Cappuccino was $5.50 and the Canarino Voltaire was a solid $10.00.  I believe it was a worthwhile experience. Especially one where I enjoyed it with 2 of my favorite people in the world.


Stephen! French Toast with a Cappuccino

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I’m typically a black coffee or Americano kind of person, but when you go to Caffè Reggio for the first time how can you not get a classic Cappuccino? It was an incredibly balanced beverage – beautiful, strong espresso notes that were made rich yet not diluted by the milk. In addition to this, I had an order of traditional French toast which was topped with fresh fruit. It was a good-to-great execution, but certainly the highlight of the meal was the cappuccino, and the experience of visiting Caffè Reggio itself.

 

Robb!

In today’s ever-evolving and modern NYC sleek restaurants with hipster light fixtures, reclaimed wood tables and front of houses that look like upscale condo lounges are more of the norm. It’s harder and harder to step foot into any establishment in the ever-changing city and step back in time to another era. One in which Instagram-ing your food didn’t exist and where the lack of the shrinking world meant it was harder to find experiences outside of your own heritage. To step into Café Reggio is to step into an NYC long since passed, it is a beacon of what once was OHH and the cappuccino is unlike anything you’ll ever taste.

When you step into Café Reggio you can’t but help notice how it hasn’t changed since its opening in 1927. The tables, chairs, art windows and even the 19th-century espresso machine all sit there untouched by the ever-changing world around it. The history goes that Café Reggio was the first place in America to bring the now popular cappuccino to America, well before soldiers from both great wars brought back the “fancy drink” with them. To taste the Café Reggio cappuccino is to experience first hand with your taste buds a different NYC too, one before hipsters from Indiana claimed to make the best Mexican food in the world, but one in where immigrants stepped off of Ellis Island and into lower Manhattan to share with this melting pot their traditions through food and drink.

The cappuccino is unlike any coffee you can have in NYC or anywhere in the country (IMO). The foam is like a cloud and as you sip through it your tongue tastes an equal mix of well-balanced espresso, chocolate, cinnamon, and almost caramel. Sprinkled on top with Nutmeg this huge cup (for only $3) will make you never want to leave this sunnier and calmer slice of old NYC you never knew you missed.

While the food is exquisite too, the coffee is what is to die for here (though the food isn’t messing around either). Of course, not all progress in restaurant culture is bad though, while the drink, eats and atmosphere conjure of a time gone by so does the slow service, we’re talking roasting the beans by hand in the back slow. While that is quite an annoyance of this place, the challenge for a normal rushed New Yorker/American who can’t handle sitting down and relaxing for a bit at a café is quite the opportunity to challenge oneself. If you ever get the chance to head to MacDougal street in the west village on a beautiful and sunny day, make sure to take a few moments and step back into an NYC that has long been gone and sip on some espresso while you sit and think about all that is changing and moving around you.

Overall: Caffe Reggio is a place of New York City past but done well in the present.  We recommend the cappuccino.  It is as good as the day they brought it over to America.  Be patient and enjoy your time.

Grade:
Jared: B++

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