True Italian coffee culture lies in the dynamic inside the café, or bar in Italian. It’s a way of doing things – a way of being.
It’s another busy morning in New York City. You’re awake but going through the motions. As you walk, the city honks, clatters, and roars – never taking a single breath. The sounds of the city don’t faze you. They are a given, just like where you’re headed. It’s a morning ritual, a guaranteed stop, the preferred location. When you arrive, the place is already bustling with others standing at the counter looking for that same feeling. Benvenuto a casa. You get a whiff of freshly baked cornettos and that perfect coffee blend passing through a sleek, silver machine of master design. Upon your first sip of espresso, something’s immediately satisfied. Whatever is to come, now your day can begin.
Italian Coffee Culture
For nearly 40 years, we at Sant Ambroeus have prided ourselves not only with exceptional quality but also an indescribable feeling of home from the time you step through the doors. A native of Pesaro, Italy, and New Yorker for the past 20 years, Lorenzo Antonelli understands that community feeling and works tirelessly to preserve it. He oversees the operations of Sant Ambroeus’s coffee bar locations and manages the brand’s coffee program. But in reality, his job centers on the power of observation. “I often see people come in our coffee bars not knowing what they want. They think they’re just coming in for a coffee or pastry, but actually, they come looking for that sense of belonging,” says Lorenzo.
True Italian coffee culture lies in the dynamic inside the café, or bar in Italian. It’s a way of doing things – a way of being. That’s why it’s so difficult to replicate. Lorenzo explains, “At any other café, there is someone lined up in front of you and behind you. At our coffee bars, like in Italy, everyone is next to each other when ordering, and it’s then that a community can form. It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone is the same. Sometimes people are confused at first, but they always end up adapting to how things are done.”
The Art of the Perfect Coffee Blend
As democratic as Italian coffee bars may be, not all espressos are created equally. In Italy, the process of choosing blends requires a nearly scientific process. From the beginning, coffee connoisseurs have in mind the taste they want. They then experiment with a variety of roasts, blends, and beans until they get that perfect combination. It’s a true art that requires a sophisticated palette, unwavering patience, and in-depth knowledge of your clientele.
With his know-how of over 20 years in the industry, Lorenzo goes through a similar process when choosing a blend. “For me, tasting a coffee means drinking it for weeks, if not months. From there, I would introduce the coffee to the café, study the reactions, and try to understand if it was the right move.” He continues, “That would be my process. But at Sant Ambroeus, I already have an idea of our customers’ tasting profile, and we are currently married to a blend. It is a mix of eight different coffees from three different continents. It’s about 80% Arabica with the rest being Robusta. For me, Arabica is like the good time you spend with a friend. It’s the most important part. But you can’t go home without a final hug – that’s Robusta.”
Italian Cafes Are Brimming with Passion, Tradition and Pastries
Of course, it’s not all about the coffee. Italian cafés wouldn’t be the same without their fragrant baked goodies fresh from the oven. In the mornings, customers come in looking for flavorful pastries, bona fide cornettos, or something equally savory. Mid-day many people stop in for lunch, searching for the simple but rich flavors of our paninis. At our coffee bars, everything is always made from scratch, and eating at the counter makes it even more undeniably authentic.
It is people like Lorenzo and his team who breathe authenticity into our brand. He tells us, “The most important thing for me when training a new barista is helping the person discover their own passion for the job. First, they need to appreciate what they do, and technique will always follow.”
We live in a world of constant evolution, even when it comes to coffee. But at Sant Ambroeus, it is a combination of passion and tradition that keep us steadfast in our mission. At our coffee bars, those beloved flavors that bring comfort and joy will always be just a few blocks away. As Lorenzo says, “In a world that moves so fast, we believe that the best way to innovate is to stay the same.”