Regular readers will know that I have a soft spot for old-fashioned Italian cafes and, in that respect, Caffé Roma fits the bill. It’s located firmly in the heart of New York’s Little Italy on the corner of Broome and Mulberry Streets. I started coming here a couple of years ago, drawn in by the offer of free wifi, but it soon became a favourite in its own right. The coffee is good, but the killer is the wonderful array of cakes.
Caffé Roma boasts the best cannoli in New York and the rest of the offerings are pretty good too. Everything is baked on the premises and if you can’t eat it all, you can take it away with you, courtesy of a massive takeaway counter…
Caffé Roma is a lovely place, established in 1891, with much of it looking as if it dates from that era, including the tiled floor. It’s the sort of place where I could happily sit for hours (helped by the long opening hours!). Little Italy has a bit of a reputation as a tourist trap, but Caffé Roma feels more genuine to me and seems very popular with both locals and tourists.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Caffé Roma is a lovely old place, with a fairly narrow front facing onto Broome Street. On entering, the café stretches away from you, massed ranks of traditional Italian cakes on the left, going back almost as far as the eye can see, while on the right, marble-topped tables disappear in similar ranks (well, MDF with marble effect, but we’ll forgive that one small blemish). Beyond the ranks of cakes/tables is a cluster of round tables and beyond them, the espresso machine, backed by a massive mirror which only adds to the sense of depth. The walls are painted a deep green which blends nicely with the wooden coving and brass chandeliers. All-in-all it has an air of graceful elegance, like a dignified old lady.
The only windows look out onto Broome Street, which means that the front of the café is often bathed in sunlight while the back is swathed in darkness. It’s an interesting contrast. The front, by the way, is where you’ll usually find me, seated at one of the small, round tables that form another cluster there.
Prior to this trip I’ve only visited either on a weekday morning or late at night when it has been pretty empty. This time I popped in at Sunday lunchtime as well and, for the first time, saw it when it was busy, which was nice. I quite enjoy it when it’s empty, the atmosphere being laid-back and relaxed, but it was great to see it lively and bustling too. Popular with both locals and tourists, the main difference seems to be that the locals largely come in for takeaway while the tourists, like me, sit at the tables to have their coffee and cake. Every time I’ve been there, there’s been a steady trade of takeaway cakes from the front counter.
Caffé Roma boasts that it has the best cannoli in New York and, having had them on previous trips, I can confirm that they are excellent. Purely in the interests of research (the sacrifices I make for my readers!) I forsook the cannoli on this trip and tried the baked cheesecake (made with ricotta cheese) and, as a special treat, the St Joseph’s Cake. On my third visit (I was in New York for three days, so naturally I had to visit three times) even my dedication to research failed me and I could only manage coffee… I know, you’re disappointed in me; frankly, I’m disappointed in myself…
The St Joseph’s Cake is worth a mention, since Caffé Roma only makes it at weekends during the months of February and March (this year it’s until March 19th; I’m guessing it’s an anti-Lent sort of thing). The base is a deep-fried dough which can be had plain or stuffed with either cannoli or vanilla cream. Naturally I chose the cannoli cream. Given that I was already struggling to fit into the trousers that I’d comfortably fitted into at the start of the trip, it might have been a strategic error…
It was, by the way, delicious. If you’d like to know how St Joseph’s Cakes are made, I went back the following year for a tour of the bakery.
The coffee is pretty good as well. The espresso is smooth and strong, although I would have preferred it slightly shorter, but overall I can’t complain. It’s certainly good enough to keep me coming back every time I visit New York!
|385 BROOME STREET • NEW YORK CITY • NY 10013 • USA|
|+1 212 226 8413|
|Monday||09:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables|
|Tuesday||09:00 – 18:00||Food||Cake!|
|Wednesday||09:00 – 18:00||Service||Table|
|Thursday||08:00 – 22:00||Cards||Cash Only|
|Friday||08:00 – 00:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||08:00 – 00:00||Power||No|
|Sunday||08:00 – 23:00||Mobile||N/A|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 8th, 9th, 10th March 2013
Update: 15th March 2014
Liked this? Then check out the rest of New York City’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to New York City.
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