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Cafes

Zaza Espresso Bar (Bloor West Village)

Posted by Alexandra Grigorescu / Posted on March 28, 2012

zaza espresso barZaza Espresso Bar's third location lands smack-dab in the middle of Bloor West Village, and despite having opened less than a week ago, it's packed to the gills. Italian music pours from the speakers, framed black-and-white photos of famous Italians line one wall, and joined with the gelato-craving calls of kids and adults alike, Zaza's new outpost captures that touted Italian cacophony.

zaza espresso bar italianCompared to other Toronto coffee shop chains, the space is not much to look at with its fluorescent lights and sparse decor. There's nary a repurposed wood table in sight! Where are the clever light fixtures, exposed brick, and orchids? But the blue high chairs are comfortable, and for summer, the real draw is a sidewalk patio that nearly matches the interior for size--and that Dark Horse can only dream of.

zaza high park Zaza's spread of biscotti and cookies ($1.75) are made by a local Italian nona, while their cannolis ($2.42) are made in-house.

The real draw is the gelato ($4-$10), which is sourced from Toronto's own La Paloma. Within a few short days, Zaza's gelato basins will overfloweth with over 20 fresh-from-Italy flavors and you can bring the taste home with 1 kg to-go buckets ($28).

zaza espresso bar beresford aveThis isn't the only Zaza location to offer gelato, but gauging by the neighbourhood response, they're spiking theirs with fairy dust. Cries of "This is delicious!" echo throughout the store. So how does it taste? It's my first taste of gelato after winter's dark hold, and I (understandably, I think) am utterly catatonic with pleasure. My own small cup comes filled with strawberry, bacio, and pistachio, and I devour it.

zaza espresso bar bloor west villageLet's talk coffee. There are no showy baristas here, and no carefully crafted foam artwork. Manager Bianca Pamela is formerly of Mexico City, "in marketing" she sheepishly admits, a potentially dangerous confession in a city notorious for its Sam James' and award-winning baristas at every corner cafe. The proprietary blend of espresso is flown in from Italy (of course) and tastes dark, rich, and a bit bitter even under the foamy cover of a cinnamon-drizzled cappuccino ($3.75). I like to taste my espresso, but others might prefer a smoother flavor.

zaza espresso bar cookiesFollowing two successful runs in Yorkville and La Rose, Zaza's third location fills a void in the heart of Bloor West village. This notoriously family-friendly 'hood has welcomed Zaza with open arms and bouquets of flowers. A wall of customer photos is in the pipeline, along with some charitable neighborhood endeavors.

When I ask why chains of independent coffee shops, such as Lit Espresso Bar, Dark Horse and Te Aro, are cropping up throughout the city, Pamela gamely responds: "We don't think of Starbucks as competition. Our concept is more of a friendly concept, in that we talk to the customers, we know their names. You go to Starbucks and everyone's on their laptops. You come to Zaza for the experience; everything is Italian, you talk to us in Italian. Everything's warm."

zaza espresso bar gelatoZaza aims to return cafes to their social roots and the animated back-and-forth between customers and staff suggests they're well on their way.

zaza coffee bloor westPhotos by Morris Lum

Discussion

9 Comments

Matt / March 28, 2012 at 10:56 am
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I like the espresso (especially in a neighbourhood that hasn't had any decent coffee until now.)

And the sidewalk patio is great, BUT—I tried to sit out there on Sunday and read a bit, and they were playing some distractingly awful Eurotrash disco-pop. (Very Yorkville.) Why do businesses feel they have to hang speakers from every available nook and play (usually crummy) music? Simple silence, or just the ambient noise of the city, would be vastly preferable.
Sandman / March 28, 2012 at 01:24 pm
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Great addition to the hood -- more options.
Note, Red Bean Espresso down the street was the first with Gelato :)
Evan / March 28, 2012 at 10:52 pm
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Being one of those latte art pouring ristretto shot pulling baristas, I actually really like the vibe and coffee at Zaza. It's a completely different product from the third wave stuff, but along with the atmosphere, I think it's great. And at least in Yorkville, the baristas really seem to care about their product which is all that matters.
Johnnymac5 / March 28, 2012 at 11:58 pm
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It has gelato it can't be too bad.
Boogie man / April 1, 2012 at 08:11 am
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Address?
Thrash till Death / April 1, 2012 at 08:37 am
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258 Beresford Avenue
Marble / April 26, 2012 at 01:32 pm
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We absolutely love the vibe here. Wonderful service, great capaccinos, and tasty treats!
luigi / May 17, 2012 at 10:48 am
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bel gelato ottimo da invidiare
Chelsea / September 17, 2014 at 02:14 am
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First time visiting the area and decided to stop in to waste away a couple hours, head in a novel and sipping away some much needed coffee. I was surprised to notice the place had a facelift in terms of furniture and a fresh coat of paint, unlike the photos posted here. It was much warmer, which made for a much more relaxing quiet time. The staff was friendly and quick to assist me with anything I needed, not to mention held my tab until I left just incase I wanted to sneak in some gelato for the road. Great place in general! The only complaint might be the staff spent their time (when no customer needed assistance) chatting VERY loudly over the phone which could be heard throughout the whole cafe. Will definitely go back to take them up on the gelato to go!

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