Since Caffé Italia first opened its doors back in 1956, not much has changed. Having a coffee here is like going back in time,” explains Mike, the manager. Caffé Italia is an institution in the Montreal Italian community, and it’s definitely a mandatory stop when I’m showing friends around Montreal.
When I found out that the blogger Kelley Vick was coming to pay a visit, I wanted to make sure that she got a chance to taste what many coffee fans consider to be the best espresso in Montreal.
As we were heading to the Jean Talon Market, I suggested that Kelley come with me to check out the Caffé Italia. I had to explain the term ‘allongé’ (as I did in my previous post, How to order a coffee in Montreal and ‘pannetone’, a traditional Italian cake normally served during Christmas holidays, but at Caffé Italia, it’s available all year round.
When you walk in the cafe, there are groups of old Italian men, huddled around tables or seated at the formica-topped diner on old-fashioned stools, with posters of Italy plastered all over the walls: evidence of a bygone era that is the Caffé Italia. The only modern touch of modernity is the addition of giant TV screens broadcasting, of course, Italian soccer matches.
Even the price of coffee seems to be from another era—it’s only $1.50 for an espresso and $2.50 for a latte! I dare you to find a better price anywhere else!
If I encourage people to visit the Caffé Italia, it’s because of the immense contribution that the Italian community has brought to Montreal’s culinary culture. It’s the Italians who built up the Jean Talon Market, introducing Montrealers to olive oil and the tradition of espresso drinking. Caffé Italia is not only the best place to get an espresso in Montreal, it was also the first café in the city to serve this popular Italian beverage.
Caffé Italia is so well-known that someone even made a film about this hallowed institution.
Insider tip : The best time to go to Caffé Italia is on Saturday morning. You can sit next to a group of old Italian men discussing the woes of the world and neighbourhood folks passing by for a quick cuppa before doing their shopping at the market.
(Kelley Vick and her husband James Lloyd)
6840 St. Laurent, Montreal, QC H2S 3C7 (514) 495-0059
Open from Monday to Saturday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Sunday, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
$1.50 for an espresso
$2.50 for a cappuccino or a latte