Caffe Emilia in the East Village
I just wandered into this place on first avenue because it reminded me of an Italian bar and was surprised it had very authentic Italian bar food and very good coffee.
Bars in Italy serve coffee, pastries, and small sandwiches, mostly to be consumed while standing up. This place has tables, and a nice garden (and unlike bars in Italy doesn't charge double for sitting down). My friend had a pear tart, I had a tuna and pickle tramezzini (only $4.00), and I am eager to come back for the bigger pannini and to try their more elaborate coffee drinks. The atmosphere is great, the food was good, and I would especially recommend it to anyone nostalgic for Northern/Central Italy. The people behind the counter are very friendly and will be happy to chat w/you in Italian though the waitress that served me and my friend was a little slow on the uptake. I haven't been to either of the other restaurants that the owner is involved in (according to NY Mag, Gnocco and Perbacco) but this place is a perfect for a small bite.