Caffe Bacio owner Gianni Salvati is a familiar face on Cumberland. "Thirty-seven years," he tells me, leaning back in a maroon high-back chair. "I've been here 37 years, and you know, now it was time for a change."
He admits that some of his friends think he's crazy for starting a new venture at age 67. Especially since Gianni has already garnered a reputation as one of the foremost high-end clothiers in Yorkville. Before Caffe Bacio opened about two weeks ago, the space was the home of Salvati Fashions, which offered Gianni's hand-picked selection of premium menswear from Italy and abroad.
"Clothing, obviously, has always been my passion," Gianni says. "But my other passion has always been food."
Motivated by his daughter, Gianni decided to finally make the swap, and named the cafe, in a sense, after her. "When she was little," he says, immediately starting to tear up, "she would stand at the top of the stairs and say, 'Bacio! Bacio!' with her arms stretched out, every time I came home."
Bacio, Gianni notes, means "kiss" in Italian. Appropriately, Gianni has adorned the walls of his new cafe with framed black and white photos of famous kisses.
The concept is Italian through and through, and true to form, it's insisted that I have a cappuccino ($2.80/$3.10) as we continue our conversation. The drink comes with a feeble attempt at foam art (Gianni concedes that Italians aren't great with presentation), but it is absolutely delicious. Creamy and smooth with a subtle, well-rounded richness. The coffee is a special blend by Italian roaster Lavazza, used to make regular shots ($1.85/$2.35), espresso con panna ($2.20/$2.60), lattes ($2.80/$3.10) and more.
Unfortunately for me I've come at the wrong time, since pizza and panini production has halted for the day. Nevertheless, Gianni lets me peek in at where his prize-hire Italian chef makes magic with a Moretti stone pizza oven. (The pastries and baked goods, it should be noted, are French). Lunch items will be around $12 to $18, and Gianni is hoping to keep cooking until dinnertime as well. For now, the cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and does not offer WiFi in a deliberate attempt to encourage conversation. Or baci.
Photos by Jesse Milns