Eva Knott 6:37 p.m., May 25
A new, traditional Italian coffee shop has just opened in Hillcrest, filling the gap caused by the untimely closing of Café Vergnano 1882 last January.
Café Barbera, located on Fifth Street just a few doors down from Hash House a Go Go, opened on May 31st.
The Caffe Barbera Company was founded in Messina, Italy, in 1870 by Dominico Barbera. Five generations later, the company distributes its products in throughout Italy, as well as in thirty countries over five continents.
The café is sleekly modern in red, black and white. Behind the shiny pastry case, filled with yummy looking treats, is a beautiful Ariete espresso maker. The soundtrack is, of course, Italian opera. It’s a comfortable space that’s dressed up, but not formal.
The coffee menu has both the traditional drinks and fancy ones. I ordered a simple espresso ($2.50), which had a thick, rich crema and not a trace of bitterness. Delicious.
The food menu includes a few breakfast items, salads, and panino imbottito, or stuffed panino. I chose the Panino Classico, ($9), made the traditional way, on a small bread roll, with Italian ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato and mayo. A crisp, fresh green salad accompanies all panini. It comes undressed, fruity olive oil and basalmic cruets are on each table.
The sandwich components were high quality, the ham had just a bit of flavorful fat around its edge and wasn’t too salty, the provolone was sharp and piquant. It wasn’t overstuffed, but it didn’t need to be. The roll was great, enough crust to give it some chew, but not so much that the middles shot out when you took a bite.
John’s ham and cheese croissant ($8) came with a large orange juice and a cappuccino (espresso is an option). I didn’t taste the sandwich, but it looked pretty good, and he enjoyed it. It’s a great deal for the money.
After we had eaten, one of the owners, Phillip Arcidiacono, stopped by to ask how our food was and to thank us for coming in. Nice touch.
We asked about the panino, since in the USA, UK and Canada, the term “panini” usually refers to a pressed and toasted sandwich. He laughed and admitted that people do expect to see grill lines, but they are staying true to their Italian heritage by serving it the traditional way. He added that they will be putting more items on the menu, including pasta dishes, as they gain traction.
Coffee beans are also available for purchase.
3614 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92103
Hours (during their soft opening)
Sunday through Thursday - 8:00 am – 8:30 pm
Friday – Saturday - 9:00 am – 8:30 pm