Caffe Pascucci, Bar Agricole, and Contraband Coffee get us all steamy
CAFFE PASCUCCI, SoMa - I feel like I'm back in Italy at brand new Caffe Pascucci, the first outpost of a popular Italian chain. The crisp, white space is chic and soothing, even as the place buzzes with the Italian families and individuals already frequenting the place within merely days of opening. It's not just because the menu is loaded with dozens of types of espresso, cappuccinos and iced coffees topped with banana or doused with amaretto. It's because the majority Italian staff and clientele exude convivial Italian spirit, throwing out "ciaos" and "pregos" liberally. I like the robust Gold Espresso, though dark hot chocolate was a little too pudding-like in consistency, even if thankfully dark (my favorites in Italy or France are syrupy rich, but not stiff). Chad Newton, formerly of Fish & Farm, executes a simple but pleasing menu of salads and sandwiches - even an ultra-basic Tri-Color Salad is three types of greens (including bits of endive), gentle shavings of Parmesan, and a perky lemon dressing. 170 King, SF.
CONTRABAND COFFEE, Nob Hill - Yet another in the endless flow of Third Wave coffee houses, brand new Contraband Coffee Bar occupies a less coffee-driven corner of Nob Hill (the Mission and SoMa don't need any more... spread the wealth!) The space is clean, white, with modern art, and baristas I've seen working at other coffee havens around town. It sports a shiny Synesso Hydra espresso machine and also offer V60 pour-over and Chemex preparations for its own roasted beans. Additional kudos for getting the snacks right: Dynamo Donuts and Peasant Pies. 1415 Larkin, SF.
BAR AGRICOLE, SoMa - The simplicity is appealing. Bar Agricole, previously open for dinner and bar only, shares its soothing garden patio and forward-thinking, urban interior for a Four Barrel coffee and one food item: a pretzel bun, aka Laugenbrötchen, from Mountain View's German baker par excellence, Esther's Bakery (http://www.esthersbakery.com). Order the pretzel roll with a side of apple butter, jam or cream cheese. Oh, they also have free WiFi and are open all day (from 8am on) until the dinner switchover at 5pm. There are fewer cooler spaces you could linger in. 355 11th Street, SF.
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