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What do I have to do to get a proper cappuccino around here?

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Red Barn at Faneuil Hall - sometimes the woman with the Sox cap does it right, as long as she is not rushed.
Starbuck's - first I am loathe to say I have to order a so-called "dry" cappuccino - and they never do it right - a latte with some foam on top.
Dunks - yeah, no.

What is not a proper cappuccino? A latte, and nearly every place in Boston that serves walk-away cappuccino (as opposed to table service in the North End) basically makes a latte.
A cappuccino is supposed to be light, not heavy and weighted down. I don't want a big cup of hot coffee milk - I want an espresso topped with luscious, airy thick foam.

This is a downtown-centric gripe - on the way to work type of thing - anything in a 10 block radius of Park Street?

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  1. Bob I am with you, I remember when it was different and not only were West Coast expats surprised by a dry cappucino, but to get something approaching a Starbucks style "latte" you had to order a "latte macchiato" and Coffee Connection just offered double strength french roast and hot milk for a cafe au lait pre-frappucino. Only thing I would differ with you is that a cappuccino isn't for take out. :-) Really not certain about the Park Street area, but what is Bina Alimentari offering (far end of the common, but depending on the commute...)? There aren't as many places to get old style Italian coffee drinks (lots of interesting variations which Starbucks/Peets never picked up), but Paradiso still does them as do many Italian social clubs. Your best bet might be a mid-line machine for your office!

    1 Reply
    1. re: itaunas

      Thanks, Itaunas. Of course, you are correct about take-out. I need to build a little cafe in my soul...

    2. Have not tried it yet, but the Marliave is making espresso and capuccino now in what I believe is the oyster bar part of the restaurant.

      7 Replies
      1. re: nsenada

        Thanks for that tip - will see if they are open in the a.m. - guessing not, but who knows...

        1. re: Bob Dobalina

          Bob, I think they might be open in the morning.

          1. re: Northender

            The cafe is supposed to be and has been reviewed here on chowhound. Grotto/Marlive's blurb about the barista and coffee (lavazza) from the Spring is below. Given FOH turnover in this city YMMV with the staffing and call to check the hours. (Recently they sent out a note about egg dishes lunch and dinner only, but that was the restaurant.)

            Who is Making Your Coffee ?

            The Marliave invites you to ... at our new Café at 51 Province Street. The Café prepares items to go or relax at the counter and enjoy your beverage with our head barista, Emma Underhill. Emma has worked at many fine privately owned cafés in New York City. Our Café features imported LavAzza coffee and house prepared pastries baked by Priscilla Sung and Charlie White.

            1. re: itaunas

              The cupcakes are excellent

              1. re: itaunas

                Thanks - that's awesome - I will definitely give it a try.

            2. re: Bob Dobalina

              You might want to give BiNA Alimentari a try as well. The Cafe opens at 8am.

            3. re: nsenada

              Hours are 7:30a - 3p for the coffee bar - was a bit early this morning, but will try tomorrow.

            4. Peet's Coffee (Financial District) makes a "traditional cappuccino" which is a single shot of espresso and just a small amount of steamed milk and mostly foam. It's definitely not a latte in my book. This drink is not on their menu board, so you have to ask for it. If you order their "small cappuccino" you will get a double shot of espresso with considerably more milk than the traditional one. That said, Peet's standard cappuccinos (cappuccini, if we were in Italy) are way less latte-like than the ones from Starbucks, although I recently found out Starbucks now owns Peet's (and perhaps they have for some time, but they haven't homogenized the beverages across the brands, thank goodness).

              6 Replies
              1. re: bella_sarda

                Peet's Coffee is not owned by Starbucks (thank goodness). Peet's is still independent, publicly traded as PEET on NASDAQ.

                Maybe you are thinking of Seattle's Best Coffee, which Starbucks acquired in 2003? All of the Boston-area ones were converted to Starbucks.

                1. re: bella_sarda

                  Starbucks bought Peets? Ohhhhh noooooo. And I have carefully been making sure to patronize Peets. And it was such a nice Monday morning until now. Waaaaah.

                  1. re: bella_sarda

                    Your post made me so sad I poked around the Internet and can report... relief. Peet's is still independent, despite rumors to the contrary. Perhaps you were thinking of Seattle's Best Coffee? Starbucks did eat them, alas.

                    1. re: PinchOfSalt

                      So sorry to spread a nasty rumor. Someone told me this at a party last weekend, and I just believed it and didn't do the fact-checking, although I have to admit I was quite dismayed by the (false) news. I'm very glad to hear Peet's is still independent. I never cared about Seattle's Best, so I don't care if Starbucks acquired them.

                      So now I'm only more happy to reiterate the recommendation for Peet's "traditional" cappuccino. If you drink it in house, they'll even serve it in a proper cappuccino cup. And I'm going to try Bina's cappuccino next. BTW, a bit off-topic, but while you're at Bina Alimentari for your coffee, get a hazelnut gelato. It's really incredible, and way better than any of the other flavors they offer, for some reason. (Not sure if they offer this in the morning hours, however.)

                    2. re: bella_sarda

                      Thanks for the tip about the traditional capuccino at Peet's. I went today and the cashier didn't know about it but the "barista" did and it really is much better.

                      1. re: SusanaG

                        I discovered it at the Peet's website, checking the calorie content of different beverages. Then i went to the store and asked for it. Only 56 calories, with whole milk! Odd that they don't even have it on the menu board. Perhaps because it costs a bit less than the standard small cappuccino they don't want to advertise it too heavily.

                    3. Try Cafe Fixe in Washington Sq, Brookline. They are really committed to authentic Italian coffees. The owner is not very engaging (snobbish?), but the coffee IS quite good. They definitely know what they are doing.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Science Chick

                        Sorry, I missed the bit about your 10 block radius....still try them if you get out to Brookline sometime!

                        1. re: Science Chick

                          I will make a point of remembering to stop in and giving them a try.

                        2. re: Science Chick

                          agreed, Cafe Fixe has really good coffee. The barista (not the owner) working when I visited was sweet, helpful, and very informative.

                        3. I'm so glad to realize that I am not the only one with this peeve. I stopped getting cappucino from Hi-Rise in Harvard Square because it came like a latte, with a design on top! It is pretty, and it does taste good, but I want that foam, not a cup of milk. I'm going to have to hit Peet's more often.

                          1. Cafe Vittoria does take-out cappuccino.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: phatchris

                              Simon's on Mass Ave between Harvard and Porter serves a Cappuccino that would shine anywhere in Italy. Next best is indeed the "traditional" at Peet's.

                            2. third or fourth or fifth on Peets. Unfortunately not within your 10 block radius, although if you're on the red line you could get off at south station and stroll back to park street....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: cpingenot

                                Peet's downtown is indeed within a 10-block radius of Park St. Takes about 7 minutes from Park Street T walking briskly. Re the Flat Black post below, I like their espresso, but I haven't tried their cappuccino. I did try both their mocha (hot) and their iced latte, but I found both of them to be very weak compared to Peet's, and the mocha tasted very fake to me, but then I think I decided I'm just not a mocha person to begin with (tried it on a whim). It's a nice cafe for hanging out, however, and they have a very good tea selection and the best scones in town (from Nashoba Brook, I think, or Sel de la Terre), including cranberry-orange, and a savory prosciutto parmesan. Both are the smaller, flakier style of scone that is more like the British version than the hulky, doughy American style. But I digress. Some day soon I'll try Flat Black's cappuccino.

                              2. Bob I also have this issue. I wonder if Flatblack Coffee (near the corner of Broad and Milk Streets) has a good cappuccino? I have tried their coffee before, but not ordered any espresso drinks.

                                I go to the cafe at Marliave most days, but I have only tried their coffee, which is quite good. I don't think they have a "head barista" type of person working there, and there has been some change-up of who staffs the cafe. There has also apparently been a pastry chef change (my co-worker asked about the absence of the miniture cupcakes that Marliave had been rocking for the past few months.... yum). Still prefer their cafe to any other in the immediate area.

                                Also close by (relatively speaking) is the Boston Common Coffee company, which is down Washington Street next to the under-construction Modern Theatre. Haven't tried their espresso either.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: southiesouthend

                                  Ordered a small cappuccino at Flat Black today. Not particularly good, I'm sorry to say. It came in a 12 oz mug, which was half-filled with a milk-espresso mix (not as light as a latte, maybe about 50-50 ratio) and half filled with a 2-inch column of foam. I think (but didn't confirm) that they use 2% milk standard, which I think results in watered-down tasting drinks. The whole thing just tasted kind of flat, and did not resemble a traditional Italian cappuccino. The prosciutto-parmesan scone was out of this world good, however, and I'd rather hang there than Marliave, which is really just a walk-up kind of joint. I walked by (Marliave) and was not inspired by the pastry offerings. They claim to offer milkshakes, but the only ice cream on hand was lavender flavor.