A new cafe just a short drive from the United States Capitol district boasts a decidedly European coffee appeal.
A year-round selection of house-made gelatos attracts families; tramezzini, stuffed focaccia and a small selection of Italian beer, wine and cocktails on tap extends the appeal into the evening; and a 3-group Wega Polaris preparing strictly Lavazza-roasted espresso drives home the Italian coffee experience.
“We are going ‘Italian bar,’ Roman inspired, through and through,” Carolyn Papetti told Daily Coffee News. “The standing-only model came up at first due to the small size of the space available. No seating was permitted in the space, so the notion of the concept stemmed from that. It also provides a more social experience, with neighbors, friends, and of course, your baristas.”
Italian Bar’s focus on quality and local character sets it apart from big coffee chain options, while its emphasis on socializing and quick-stay service makes it additionally distinct from laptop-friendly culture of many independents.
“We want to steer as far away from a Starbucks feel as possible,” said Carolyn Papetti.
The Papettis formed Da Noi Hospitality in 2016 with the intention to open various Italian-style eateries and other concepts throughout the Washington area. Later this Spring Da Noi plans to open In Bocca al Lupo, a traditional Roman-style pizzeria.
At Italian Bar, high, ornate tin ceilings painted an antique copper catch the light bounced from vintage mirror tiles behind a long, warm Maple wood bar that stretches through the 900-square-foot space.
Roman brick tile flooring adds to the earthy Italian vibe of the shop, whose Carpigiani gelato machine has started churning out popular old-country flavors like Pistacchio, Stracciatella, Caffè, Cioccolato and a few others.
Papetti said they’ll experiment with some more adventurous flavors towards the end of summer. Additional goods sold in the shop will include homemade pasta from I’m Eddie Cano, olive oils, vinegars and more, for “that Italian alimentari feel.” Come Christmas time, the shop will stock panettone and pandoro.
“It seems that the Italian Bar concept is really striking a chord in the area,” said Papetti. “The notion of pursuing additional locations is definitely attractive. It could really work.”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.