1940s COFFEE SHOP BAR ITALIA
Bar Italia is a legendary coffee shop on Frith Street in Soho, London that was opened in 1949 and is still going. It was opened by the Polledri family and is still owned by them today. Lou and Caterina Polledri were the first and then it was passed to their son Nino – who took over the reins in the 1970s – and then to his children Antonio, Luigi and Veronica – who today not only run Bar Italia but also the restaurant Little Italy, which is next door.
When I first moved to London in 1992 it was the place to go for a pick-me-up strong coffee after a long night out partying. For the first ten years I was in London I don't think I ever went to Bar Italia at any time of day other than about 2am...basically I never saw it in daylight. It still opens until 5am every day and then closes and re-opens at 7am for breakfast...
It has always been full of local characters, mixed with party people, celebrities and more. I was there last week (in daylight) during London Fashion Week on a rainy Monday morning and it was still buzzing and busy.
Weirdly the location was the also the place that John Logie Baird gave the first public demonstration of his new invention - the television - in 1926. Look out for the blue plaque above the door that commemorates this. Plus Bar Italia inspired the song of the same name by the band Pulp, which is the last track of their 1995 album Different Class. The song describes the cafe as "round the corner in Soho" and "where other broken people go."
The coffee of course is exemplary. Over to them to describe it: "Our Gaggia coffee machine doesn’t have a water filter, so no salts are run through it. Its temperature is set to less than boiling so the coffee doesn’t burn. We also only use the finest coffee – our own secret blend – which has been supplied to us by Signor Angelucci (once based next door) since we first opened. If you come in and tell one of our experienced Barista’s how you want your coffee, it will be prepared to your exact preference. Tell him twice and you will never have to tell him again, he will remember you and know exactly how you want your coffee, getting it right every time."
Check out Bar Italia the next time you are in London!
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Bar Italia, 22 Frith St, London, W1D 4RF
020 7437 4520