Espresso is a brewing method many of us take for granted, but which is a relatively recent invention in the history of coffee. We can trace espresso back to an 1884 invention by Angelo Moriondo, from Turin. His device was the first that controlled the supply of steam and water separately through the coffee. In 1901, Luigi Bezzera of Milano patented the device that would forever change the world of coffee: the world’s first single-serving espresso machine.
Espresso machines became popular in Italy, but were not available in the United States commercially. That all changed, legend has it, in 1927, when a machine was installed at Caffe Reggio at 119 MacDougal Street by owner 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. This original machine can still be seen in the back of Caffe Reggio.
In addition to Caffe Reggio, a 2010 Village Preservation Village Awardee, there is no shortage of places to get your espresso fix in Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo. Just a few of our favorites are listed below:
Porto Rico Importing Co.
Porto Rico, a 2007 Village Awardee, was founded by Italian immigrant Patsy Albanese in 1907 and has been owned and operated by the Longo family for the past three decades.
They have both a west side location at 201 Bleecker Street and one on the east side at 40 St. Marks Place. Porto Rico Importing Co. serves well over 100 types of beans. Check out owner Peter Longo’s oral history here.
McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Co. 109 Christopher Street
Similar to Porto Rico, this bean and tea importer has been serving Greenwich Villagers since 1895. In 1980, David Wong and his dad, Wing, purchased McNulty’s. Still very much a family business, McNulty’s was a 2011 Village Award winner.
Mud Coffee, 307 East 9th Street
Mud Coffee has much more recent roots, dating to the Mudd Truck, which has been ubiquitous to the area around Astor Place since the turn of the last century.
There are too many good espresso makers to choose from or even list here, and we have a lot of favorites. Here are just a few more of our recommendations:
- 9th Street Espresso has two local locations, at 700 East 9th Street and 341 East 10th Street. They opened in 2001 when nobody was offering manual espresso service as their primary focus in New York.
- The Grey Dog, at 90 University Place is a restuarant that was opened by two brothers, Dave and Pete, in 1996, and was a 2010 Village Awardee.
- Bar Pisellino at 52 Grove Street. While a recent addition to the neighborhod, opening in 2019, it has quickly earned an excellent reputation when it comes to wine, cocktails, and espresso.