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Best Latte or Cappucino

Hey Hounds,

THere was an espresso thread here recently, but I'm wondering what y'all think of the current standard of latte or cappucino making in the city?

Twofold reason for asking: I was in Sant Ambroeus on W4th St this morning and had a delicious cappucino. It was so good, I followed up with a latte, which was equally good (mind you, the two espressos nearly undid me!) But, one, the coffee was evidently of high quality. As good as it gets in Manhattan? That's the question. And, two, the milk was steamed to perfect temperature. Steamed, not scalded, as is usually the case in New York coffee shops, including Starbucks, where they use milk thermometers, presumably to avoid scalding the milk. The result is always a spoiled coffee, with burnt lips and tongue to add injury to insult.

Where else can an occasional coffee drinker like me go for such a rich, almost sinful, treat?

- Sean

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  1. Via Quadronno - amazing cappucino - probably the only place I've had one in the last three years. I walk down from Carnegie Hill through the park and then head there (73d, between 5th & Madison) for a cappucino before walking home. If they are busy and there's no place to sit, you can get your cappucino in a real cup and drink it outside and then return it. Perfect for those of us with dogs. Tastes better than in the paper cup. I also buy the beans there when I feel like splurging - Antica Tostatura Triestina.


    PS - Found this series of photos - correctly made espresso and incorrectly made espresso - I wish it could be posted city wide. I can tell just by the steam coming off of one that it is going to be bitter and nasty - I guess the "overly extracted" category.


    2 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      Agree 100% on Via Quadronno. They serve the only cappucino in NYC that I've had that compares favorably with the cappucino one finds in Italy. Recently someone told me that the same people who own Via Quadronno also own Sant Ambroeus, so I'm not surprised by your positive report.

      1. re: Desidero

        Interesting - kind of surprises me - or at least, on the website they only show VQ and Bottega del Vino - but certainly could be.

        Sant Ambroeus website doesn't suggest any connection - sounds like it is still in the same family.


    2. Taralucci i Vino - was in the E. Village, now in Union Square. Best Cappucino I've had in the city. Enjoy!

      1. Interesting about the Via Quadronno - Sant Abroeus connection.

        I work on Carnegie Hill, and as much as I like Yura's for soup, I hate their coffee (the guy making the lattes yesterday was almost comically ham-fisted!). I'll check it out.

        - Sean

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sean Dell

          I only buy the black coffee from Yura - and only if I'm feeling really lazy in the morning, and iced with a lot of milk.

        2. One of the best lattes I had in NY is at Porto Rico which is on Bleecker near 6th street. You cannot have your coffee inside, like at Starbuck's, but there are benches outside so you sit down and watch people go by...it is quite pleasant and the coffee is awesome!

          1. In my opinion, the best espresso drinks in Manhattan are made at two places in the village: Joe & 9th St. Espresso. Granted these are coffee shops and are therefore much more casual than a place like St. Ambroeus, but the espresso, macchiato, cappucino, and latte at those two places are outstanding.

            4 Replies
            1. re: billyeats

              I'll second 9th St Espresso. Best macchiato in the city this side of the big pond.

              1. re: billyeats

                I second Joe's. The art of cappucino relies on skilled baristas (Joe's are exceedingly well-trained) and freshly-roasted beans (Joe's gets theirs from Barrington Coffee almost every other day). St. Ambroeus uses Danesi beans, which are vacuum-sealed from Italy, but hardly fresh roasted. It does make a difference.

                1. re: BGRose

                  I can only vouch for Joe (Art of Coffee)'s regular coffee, which is the best I've ever had in the city.

                2. re: billyeats

                  I third Joe's! They serve an amazing latte, and I also love the mocha which is rich and cocoy.

                3. ALthough it's not cappucino or espresso per se, I'd put Cafe Sabarsky's coffee up against anyone's in the entire world. My God, it's good.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jasmurph

                    I wholeheartedly agree about Cafe Sabarsky's coffee. It is extremely strong, like a slap in the face with the first sip. I love it!

                  2. Cafe con Leche's namesake drink is fab. Not quite what you asked for, but worth branching out.

                    1. There are some good cappuccinos around, but certainly most places don't achieve very good results. I like Casa (part of Cupcake Cafe) by 40th & 9th. Zibetto on 6th Ave bettween 56th & 57th is also great, actually even better than Casa.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Andrew Hyatt

                        Zibetto is quite the Italian experience -- I finally tried it out yesterday. The baristas are also super nice, super quick, and super professional. I only have two complaints: (1) the beans could be fresher -- they are brought in pre-roasted from Italy and (2) Vanity Fair is doing a piece on them next month, so expect the super-crowded bar to become even MORE crowded.

                        1. re: kersie

                          ive been to them all, i am a charter member of zibetto, thats my fave

                          1. re: kersie

                            love zibetto. And if you buy a card for 10 cappuccinos you get 1 free!

                            1. re: mr_seabass

                              Zibetto either reheats milk or reuses lukewarm milk for espresso drinks. This place is overrated. Also has gotten worse since the time it opened. I used to be a fan, but no longer.

                        2. The best foam I've had anywhere in the city is at Bruno's. The coffee is not the best, but it's not awful either, and for me, a cappucino is all about the foam-coffee combo.

                          I'm not the hugest fan of Joe. Can't figure out quite what the big deal is there. It's good, but not worth traveling for. I go there when I go to the tailor across the street.

                          Will have to try Sant Ambroeus.

                          1. I agree with the Sant Ambroeus and Via Quadronno people. Plus, Via Quadronno has awesome panini.

                            1. FYI: Morning wake-up in the West Village: San Ambroeus recently swirtched to Lavazza, which tastes like dishwater compared to the smooth, rich Danesi. Pity. Now, if only the newly refurbished Westville, which will reopen shortly with a morning menu, would drop its harsh, generic espresso and return to its original choice of Danesi...

                              I'm not enamored of the quality of Joe's espresso. It's just ok. Still think Danesi is numero uno.

                              1. I love the coffee at Zibetto.
                                Sant Ambroeus on Madison/78th is great,as well as the village one, have to say I find in both branches that the coffee is best when made by the Italian,male baristas.
                                9th stret espresso s my third choice

                                1. This is easy. Downtown, at least, the nod has to go to 9th st. Espresso and it's offshoot, Everyman Espresso. They are both fairly strong though, so a place like Joe makes cappuccino that tastes blandly milky to me in comparison. One perk of Everyman Espresso is that they are in a fairly low foot traffic area and have a nice open space in the CSC's lobby so there is almost always a place to sit.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: eca

                                    Had a cappuccino at San Ambroseus on West 4th street a few months ago and was quite disappointed. I was expecting a typical delicious Italian cappuccino, got thick dry foam over okay coffee. Neither good nor "authentic", whatever that means.

                                    1. re: DavyTheFatBoy

                                      I love Sicaffe on lex and 70 th street. It is perfection. They also have a doppio triestino which I also love. Via quadronno is next on my list. I also love arte cafe on columbus and 73 (not as good as the other two , but def better than starbucks!)

                                  2. Very nice to see this thread, and some real recommendations. I learned about espresso and cappucino during my misspent youth in San Francisco, and I usually found NYC's cappuccinos rather weak-kneed by comparison. Now, thanks to your recs, I have some places to try.

                                    1. Couldn't disagree more with assessment of espresso beverages at Sant Ambroeus on West 4th. Was there this morning, thnking I should give it a second, third, and now fourth, chance since its switchover to Lavazza. Again, sad to say, my cappuccino tasted blah- not much more than boiled water with an almost nonexistent espressso flavor/feel.

                                      I do have a new recommendation to West Villagers: Grounded on Jane. They make a truly delicious espresso; also, both their coffees and espresso beans are organic (if that matters to
                                      you) Prices are similar to the bland Sant Ambroeus and ...well, ciao, watery Lavazza.

                                      1. Macchiato Coffee Bar on 44th between 3rd and Lexington has to be included in discussions aboutbest latte or cappucino. The very European style of coffee in this coffee bar is trulya treat.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: RCC

                                          If you like your cappucino strong get to Gimme Coffee on Mott Street. They use an 8 oz cup for a two ristretto shot capp. The coffee itself is excellent, deep flavor and for those who care, politically correct.

                                        2. I don't know if it's necessarily "the best" latte you'll find (probably not), but there's a tidy little Swedish cafe called Fika on W. 58th that does a marvelous latte, IMO. And as a bonus, they serve up fine Swedish cookies and pastries to go along with your drink.

                                          1. Places that haven't been mentioned yet, I really like Ninth Street Espresso and Abraco for cappuccinos. They're really smooth and bold.


                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: chocokitty

                                              Some of the best espresso and cappuccino in the city is being served up in Brooklyn. Gimme Coffee in Williamsburg and Cafe Grumpy in Greenpoint. But Cafe Grumpy also has a second shop in Chelsea -- 224 West 20th. Can't vouch for this outpost, but the cappuccinos in Brooklyn are so good that after drinking one, you're spiritually altered and all is right with the world.

                                              1. re: chocokitty

                                                Definitely have to second chocokitty's opinion on Abraco. Out of the cafés I've been to (9th st., Joe's, Grumpy, etc. and the numerous Starbucks), it has the best espresso drinks. Haven't tried their coffee, but the lattés and Cappuccinos are amazing. Besides that, the customer service is incredibly friendly.

                                                The only "flaw" is the space (or lack thereof), which can probably fit a maximum of maybe 5 or so people comfortably, probably even less. However, I don't find it too bad, as I like the quaint, hole-in-the-wall atmosphere a lot.

                                              2. I was really excited to see that La Colombe moved up here from Philly-- they're on Church just below Canal. Really, really good espresso and coffee. I love that place. Gimme Coffee is awesome and they just opened on Elizabeth St in Nolita, which is much more convenient than trekking to the location on Grand in Brooklyn. I am curious though, who makes the best coffee in Chinatown, around Bowery/East Broadway/Mott? Anyone know?

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: waterbuffalo

                                                  Are you talking about Chinese bakery coffee? There's not a single Western-style coffee shop within many blocks of that location.

                                                  1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                    Okay, so is there any good bakery style coffee? What about that place on Mott, sortof across from Mosco/ Wo Hop? Where do I go when I'm out of beans? Even a sure-fire Little Italy spot would be appreciated... (south of Broome I'm thinking).

                                                    1. re: waterbuffalo

                                                      >Where do I go when I'm out of beans?

                                                      I recommend Oren's Daily Roast and the coffee department at Whole Foods. I particularly like Papua beans from the former, and the Red Sea Blend from the latter.

                                                      1. re: NYCinephile

                                                        Whoopsie! I meant-- where do I go on those unfortunate mornings when I'm out of coffee beans at home (I order Stumptown through the internet...) and I must trek out in Chinatown in search of a "real coffee" or at least a good try at it. Dire situation down here at the end of Bowery!

                                                        1. re: waterbuffalo

                                                          When all else fails -- there must be a Starbuck's somewhere in Chinatown. Probably Canal St. Just half-kidding!

                                                          Maybe sign up for automatic monthly delivery from Stumptown...shouldn't there be some Italian deli on Grand St. in Little Italy that has vacuum-packed Torrisi espresso, at least?

                                                          Don't feel bad. It's hard to find a decent TEA place in Chinatown, for chrissake!

                                                2. I'm surprised no one has mentioned Falai. Had a fantastic cappuccino there not long ago.

                                                  1. I just tried an espresso made in my Gaggia with Barrington Roasting Company espresso roast beans from Joe- VERY IMPRESSIVE! The coffee is rich, and nutty, without tasting over-roasted. I like it a bit more than Ily, and Roasting Plant's Papua New Guinnea blend, my other favorites.

                                                    1. FYI, Joe's (at least the one on 13th between 5th and University) does not know what a latte is. I have gone there three times over the past 6 months and every time I order a latte. What I get is a cappucino. A latte is a double shot of espresso, topped with steamed -- never frothed -- milk. It's basically the same thing as a cafe au lait in France or a cafe con leche in Spain or Latin America or a milchkaffee in Germany. A cappucino is always thirds -- a third of espresso, a third of steamed milk, a third of frothed milk. I still have not found a good latte in NYC. HELP.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: ab70

                                                        Actually I think it's permissible for a modern latte to have a bit of frothed milk on the top. I believe a cappucino has a lot less milk overall than a latte. I've found plenty of good lattes in NYC. What neighborhood are you looking for?

                                                        1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                          I'm looking for a traditional latte near Union Square...any ideas? I've heard that City Bakery might do it properly, but haven't checked it out yet.

                                                          1. re: ab70

                                                            Not when I've gone to City Bakery. The last latte I had there was almost entirely milk foam and had no coffee taste.
                                                            I recommend Amai Tea & Bake House, on 3rd Ave just north of 17th St. Don't be fooled by the name. They have a very good tea selection, but the coffee is not neglected at all. They use Counter Culture, the barista's are all well-trained, and I've had some great drinks there. Their sweets are mostly excellent also.

                                                            1. re: Peter Cuce

                                                              OK, you were right -- they have the closest to a traditional latte as I've had in Manhattan -- thanks for the recommendation! But at $4.25 for a medium, I probably won't be going there often...:(

                                                              1. re: ab70

                                                                There's lots of other places as well and even more in Brooklyn serving great lattes.

                                                      2. I can vouch for the coffee at Grumpy's on 20th St. Even the decaf is superb!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: ibbyla

                                                          I like the latte at Pecan ( kubricks), also at ceci cela ( illy)