Caffe Reggio

An espresso in a Caffe Reggio espresso cup.I’ve been visiting Caffe Reggio, a Greenwich Village institution, for years, almost as long as I’ve been coming to New York City. Like Boston’s Caffé Vittoria and Little Italy’s Caffé Roma, it’s the sort of old fashioned, American-Italian café that I can’t help but fall in love with (although I also have a soft spot for the Anglo-Italian variety). Established in 1927, Caffe Reggio been going strong ever since, trading partly on its heritage, although there’s a lot more behind its success than just nostalgia.

In terms of its coffee, it’s not going to win any third-wave aficionados over, but it serves a decent espresso, while there is an excellent range of cakes, which I’ve sampled before. Like many cafés of its ilk, there’s also a full food menu, which, due to illness, I didn’t get to try on this visit.

It’s a fairly small, busy space, with a sumptuously-appointed interior, which is half the attraction. You can also sit outside at a row of tables on the sidewalk. Full table service is an added bonus. It’s fair to say that while I enjoy the coffee, the main purpose of my (continued) visits is to soak up the atmosphere.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Caffe Reggio on sunny MacDougal Street (from March 2012)...
  • ...and, by way of contrast, from a rather cold March day in 2003!
  • It's good to see that even the outside seating stays inside when it's that cold!
  • In contrast, this is from this March (2014).
  • A shady outside seating option.
  • The famous awning over the door...
  • ... and, by way of contrast, the view from the inside.
  • A panoramic view from just inside the door.
  • I was rather taken by the door itself...
  • ... and by the stained glass above it.
  • The first of the two rooms as seen from by the espresso machine.
  • My table by the window.
  • Not my table by the window. This one is in the other room and has nicer chairs!
  •  A typical Caffe Reggio table.
  • Contrasting square and round tables.
  • Through the arch, there are fancy chairs, benches and this neat hexagonal table.
  • This, by the way, is closer to how it looks to the naked eye, lighting-wise.
  • The neat niche on the back wall.
  • And in more detail.
  • The view through the arch into the second room.
  • I've always liked the paintings...
  • ... and the fan. And the tin ceilings.
  • Caffe Reggio is full of interesting nick-nacks, such as this clock.
  • The light-fittings are also lovely...
  • This one is my favourite.
  • However, pride of place goes this beauty at the back of the second room.
  • The cylindrical espresso machine dates from 1902, but sadly isn't in working order.
  • One more look...
  • This, by the way, is from 2003. Not much has changed, only I have a better camera now!
  • The working espresso machine is slightly more modern.
  • The massed ranks of pasties and cakes which sadly I was unable to sample.
  • All I managed was this old-school espresso.
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Caffe Reggio, on MacDougal Street, is a block south of the western corner of Washington Square on the eastern side of Greenwich Village in New York City. Instantly recognisable from its green décor and the semi-circular awning above the door, it’s a lovely spot. Outside on the pavement there’s a row of small, square two-person tables along the length of the café, separated from the general pedestrian flow by low, green barriers. On the spring-like March day I was there, sitting outside would have been an option, although you do have to share your space with the smokers, and there’s quite a lot of traffic on MacDougal Street.

Stepping inside, the immediate thing that has struck me over the years is how dark it is. Although generous windows line the length of the café, even on a bright, sunny day, not a lot of light gets into the interior. This is largely due, I think, to MacDougal Street being fairly narrow with tall (although not skyscraper-tall) buildings on either side. It doesn’t help that Caffe Reggio is east-facing.

Caffe Reggio feels like two shops knocked into one, the two rooms connected, lengthwise, by a broad arch. You come into the right-hand room, with the counter directly ahead of you and the refrigerator holding the cakes immediately to the left of it. For some reason, I always end up sitting in this part of Caffe Reggio, never having made it through the arch into the second room. Given how comparatively small it is, I find this quite surprising.

The seating is a mix of square and round two-person tables in the first room, all fairly tightly packed together. It’s more of the same through the arch, but with old, wooden benches, reminiscent of ornate church pews, lining the walls. There’s a lovely little niche at the back, just beside the arch in the first room, which would make a very cosy spot for two.

Other than dark, the word that springs to mind when describing Caffe Reggio is sumptuous. The interior décor is a mixture of green and dark red, in keeping with the exterior colours. The furniture is heavy, with well-upholstered seats and dark wood abounds. The walls are lined with some lovely old oil paintings (there are more details on the artworks on the website), while there’s a fantastic cylindrical espresso machine, dating from 1902, on display in far corner. Sadly it does not work and the machine that’s currently in use is considerably more modern. And less photogenic. Surprisingly for somewhere that appears so venerable, Caffe Reggio is laptop friendly, with free Wi-Fi. The waitress even proffered the code without my having to ask.

When it comes to the coffee, Caffe Reggio serves a very traditional, dark-roasted, bitter espresso of the sort that I would have adored a few years ago, but which now I find okay rather than exceptional. It had the merit of improving as it cooled, the first sip being very bitter. This being a very old-style Italian café, I ordered a single. From past experience, the double is far too long for me, but the single hits the spot perfectly.

119 MACDOUGAL STREET • NEW YORK CITY • NY 10012 • USA
www.caffereggio.com +1 212 475 9557
Monday 08:00 – 03:00 Seating Tables, Tables outside
Tuesday 08:00 – 03:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Wednesday 08:00 – 03:00 Service Table
Thursday 08:00 – 03:00 Cards Cash Only
Friday 08:00 – 04:30 Wifi Free (with code)
Saturday 08:00 – 04:30 Power No
Sunday 09:00 – 03:00 Mobile N/A
Chain No Visits 11th March 2014

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