You will be hard pressed to find an establishment in New York City that has survived for as long as 92 years! Well my friends, Caffe Reggio has earned that distinction. Located at 119 MacDougal Street and celebrating its birthday on August 29th, Caffe Reggio opened in 1927 and is one of this writer’s favorite places. But I am certainly not alone!
How do we love thee? Let us count the ways!
First of all, Caffe Reggio is freaking gorgeous. So there’s that….
Secondly, Caffe Reggio is located in one of the most romantic (and romanticized…) neighborhoods in our fair city. And for good reason. The South Village is as alive as it ever was when Dylan and Baez and Kerouac and Smith and Rivers and Burroughs and Ginsburg and…. well, the list goes on….. lived and/or created and performed there. From the comedy clubs to the music scene, to the restaurants, it retains the ethos of the hotbed of creativity and innovation for which the South Village is famous.
And then there is the historic espresso machine. One must behold this work of art in person to really appreciate it, but we will give you a digital preview.
BEHOLD THE ESPRESSO MACHINE MASTERPIECE
The espresso machine is enough to make you really want to go and hang out there! It has a history all its own. Cappuccino first became popular in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century. Soon after, legend has it that it was introduced in America by the original owner of Caffe Reggio, Domenico Parisi. The exquisite espresso machine, made in 1902 in Italy, was the first of its kind. Its ornate chrome and bronze exterior is a beauty of both engineering and design. The story goes that Domenico Parisi sent his entire life savings to Italy ($1,000) to purchase the beauty. And the espresso it makes is something that only Proust could adequately describe.
And no, they don’t allow smoking any longer. One of the few things that has changed about the place! In a city where nearly everything changes, everything is updated, and staying relevant is mandatory, Caffe Reggio prides itself on staying the same. Knowing that something from the past remains is what many customers crave. The smoking…. not so much!
In the bygone days of the 1960s, several classic coffee houses flourished on MacDougal Street in the heart of the South Village including Cafe Borgia, Caffe Cino, Le Figaro Cafe, and more, but Caffe Reggio has stayed the distance. How has Reggio survived when so many competitors faded like a forgotten memory? Fabrizio Cavallacci, whose family has overseen it for decades believes that the secret to its success is “not changing since 1927!”
Moving on to some of the other multitudes of reasons to love Caffe Reggio….
Just in case you like your cappuccino with a side of Renaissance Art, Reggio boasts a dramatic 16th century painting from the school of Caravaggio and an antique bench which once belonged to the Medici family! You read that correctly. Caravaggio and Medici. You’re welcome.
Then of course, Caffe Reggio is a movie star! It had a starring (and sometimes minor) roll in a number of films including Godfather II, Shaft, and Serpico.
And then there’s the Coen Brothers connection…. Inside Llewyn Davis is a dark comedy about a week in the life of an aspiring folk singer. Loosely based on real life folk musician Dave Van Ronk’s posthumous auto-biography The Mayor of MacDougal Street, the film takes place mostly in Greenwich Village, during the folk revival scene of the early 1960s. One of the great scenes takes place inside Reggio. And the Coen Brothers directed it. Lots to love there.
Finally, just saying, visiting the South Village is like taking a vacation to a super cool place without actually leaving the city! And sipping a cappuccino at Caffe Reggio almost makes you feel like you’ve magically arrived in Italy!
By the way, Village Preservation was victorious in its efforts to landmark the South Village in 2017. It is undeniably an area like no other in the city, nay, the country and we are proud to have played a part in preserving its history and its architecture.