Bar Italia

During our last trip, Ricky took me to one of his favourite places in all of London: Bar Italia.

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Located in the heart of Soho, it’s a great location for some morning caffeine or an afternoon break. That said, I would have easily sidestepped the unassuming front with its shadowed interior had I not had someone with me to point it out.

As soon as we stepped inside, though, I knew why he’d been so eager to bring me.

The place looked like it had come straight out of the 60’s, a coffee bar where older Italian gentlemen would have come to drink bitter brews in bitterer silence while young British mods clustered in groups to talk music and bikes. It was narrow, dark, and had the spit-shine spirit of something immune to the ebb and flow of trendy renovation. I loved it at once.

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Bar Italia interior: a time warp to the past.

The whole main wall was mirror, every inch hung with framed photos of historical people, events clipped from browned newspapers, and Italian paraphernalia. A huge flag of said nation draped long across the ceiling, billowing with every puff of air from the open door.

Before I’d managed to get my bearings, a frowning barista in a white shirt and black waistcoat popped out from behind the columns of coffee beans

“What your order?” he asked.

The chalkboard menu behind him had all the classics, and I got an Americano while Ricky went for a latté.

Along the counter was crammed all manner of things: sugar packets, napkins, and the like took up what space wasn’t being used by espresso machines. The narrowest gap existed through which you could pass over your money and be handed your change. The barista, though gruff, was almost refreshingly honest after a lifetime of over-the-top-bubbly customer service conditioning.

“I bring it to you,” he said after we’d paid, and waved us to the back to find some seats.

The tables to the end were all circular, the chairs’ legs locking with one another like a lazy game of footsie. A huge flatscreen TV took up most of the back wall on which a game of football (soccer) was playing – the only concession to modernity in the whole place.

Our coffees arrived, and heaven was imbibed. Though Americanos can sometimes be rather acidic, mine was all rich, dark roasted velvet.

Coffee lovers, this place is for you.

Bar Italia is known in London for being a cultural gem in the heart of Soho. It’s had patrons like John Hurt and Rupert Everette, and has even been featured in the song “Bar Italia” by Pulp in their 1995 album Different Class. Not too bad for a family run business opened in 1949.

We spent nearly a whole happy hour there before continuing with our day, soaking up the nostalgia into our very fingers and toes. Next time we’re in London, I’m sure we’ll be back.

The barista waved us goodbye as we finally headed out, stepping abruptly sixty years into the future.

Located at 22 Frith St, Soho, London W1D 4RF, UK.

Hours: 7am-5pm Monday-Saturday, 7am-12am Sunday


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