The Italian café chain known as Spazio Caffé has landed on Montana Avenue near 15th Street, bringing yet another flavor of café experience to the neighborhood. Its grand opening was on Saturday, and The Mirror was invited to a preview tasting and celebration.
The Spazio Caffé concept comes from a northern Italian coffee company that makes the Manuel brand of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. There are Spazio Caffés around the world, mostly in Europe, and also in Africa, the Middle East, and a couple in Asia. Wherever they’re located, Spazio Caffés have the same bright, casual look designed in Italy, and they serve the Manuel line of hot and cold beverages.
Along with the café’s Italian passport, what seems notable here is the sheer variety of beverage choices on the menu. Coffee drinks start with your choice of two kinds of espresso beans – a 100 percent Arabica blend or a creamier, cocoa-y blend – that are grinded fresh to order. You could get an espresso, cappuccino, or latte, or you can have one of the many specialty coffee drinks, like the Agrumil (milk and marmalade) or the Baciami (milk and hazelnut cream).
There are also some three dozen kinds of teas and 18 kinds of hot chocolate flavors to choose from. The hot chocolate is thick and rich, not too sweet, and nicely served in a tall cup and saucer with a small spoon and Italian sugar cookie on the side – it’s delightful and helps take the edge off a cold, grey day.
“People are surprised when they taste our hot chocolate,” says café co-owner Laszlo Geber.
A short food menu of eggs, salads, and paninis is prepared in a small kitchen space in the back, where you might see chef Pierpaolo Mattei – a native of the Piemonte region of northern Italy and an experienced chef whose long resume includes a few years at Locanda del Lago on the Third Street Promenade.
Breakfast choices include scrambled eggs served with a bagel or croissant and fresh fruit, or an organic yogurt granola parfait with fresh fruit. Mattei is expanding the food menu and says there will be a homemade soup of the day, pasta of the day, and desserts. He makes his tiramisu with amaretti cookies for a different flavor and texture.
The new Spazio Caffé on Montana is a project of childhood friends David Sandor King and Laszlo Geber, who also own Café Bello on Broadway near 19th Street, and a third partner, Istvan Bessenyei. Geber and King say theirs is the first Spazio Caffé in the United States, and they hope to establish the Manuel brand in this country. They plan to open a second Spazio Caffé soon in Venice, on Main Street near Rose.
“When I walk into a Starbucks I see people sitting, looking down at their laptops or whatever. They don’t even talk with each other,” Geber told The Mirror. “We want this to be a place where people enjoy their coffee and talk.”
Spazio Caffé, 1511 Montana Ave. #C, 310.899.6769. Espresso $2.75-$3, cappuccino $3.50-$4, specialty coffee drinks $3.95, hot chocolates $3.95, paninis $9.95, salads $8.50-$11.50, scrambled eggs $8.50, yogurt granola parfait $7.50.