By Minh Pham
Located in the heart of the North End on Hanover Street, Caffe Vittoria is one of those well-kept secrets you might pass right by without noticing; it’s right next to the very popular Mike’s Pastry, after all. But this cute, authentic coffee shop is a slice of vintage and a taste of Italy without the pricey plane ticket. And, let’s admit it, the antique atmosphere lends a fun air of sophistication.
In business and looking pretty much the same since 1929 -- “most of what you see here [has been] the same since the shop first opened,” said 25-year veteran manager Armando Reyes -- Caffe Vittoria offers a wide range of menu options, including a variety of pastries and beverages hot, cold, and alcoholic.
“We use the same philosophy every time we serve a cup of coffee: We ask ourselves if we would want to drink it, if the answer is no, we fix a new one,” said Reyes. “We place quality as the first priority here.”
Improper Bostonian and Phantom Gourmet have named the cafe’s cappuccino the best in Boston, and a lot of Yelp!-ers say they make a mean hot chocolate, too. My personal favorite is a caramel steamer with whipped cream. I’ll also indulge in a cannoli if it’s been a rough day, but many patrons satisfy their sweet tooth with the fantastic tiramisu. Caffe Vittoria also offers a good selection of Grappa (Italian brandy), for those who’d like to take the European influence up a notch.
“My favorites include gelato and Goldschläger,” said Todd, 27, a frequent customer. Northeastern student and new Caffe Vittoria waitress Victoria, 18, professed her love for the cafe mocha. Basically, there’s something for everyone.
Back to that old-school atmosphere: Even the folk songs playing over the speakers take you to a distant past. If you’re really lucky, on a nice summer night, you might catch some cheery street musicians playing accordions outside the wide-open windows -- perfect for a first date, anniversary, or any romantic moment. Reyes said he’s seen many men pop the question over the years; one couple got engaged at Caffe Vittoria and returns every year for their anniversary to sit at the same table.
“I’ve witnessed many children of these couples growing up over the years,” Reyes said happily. “Sometimes you don’t even recognize them.”
On the flip side, customer service can admittedly get hasty and abrupt during rush hours when the place is packed with patrons, and friendly staff is a bit of a rare occurrence, but I think the food and overall atmosphere makes up for the few shortcomings. Even if you’re not a coffee person, the chance to relax for an hour or two in a quaint cafe in the middle this bustling city should be irresistible.
About Minh -- I once told my mom that there are three consistent passions in my life: advertising, bartending, and tennis. I wouldn't consider myself an expert in any of those fields, but something about each of them makes me feels very much alive. Twitter: @DatsWatMinhSaid
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