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Zaza Espresso Bar

Posted by Wendy D / Posted on March 27, 2009

Zaza CappuccinoI walk into Zaza Espresso Bar and order my cappuccino ($4.00) to stay. Co-owner Raffaele seems pleased with my choice and announces that he'll make mine extra special (I cross my fingers that this means "never ending"). He laments that the passers-by who order their lattes to go are missing out on the true espresso experience.

Zaza Pour.jpgThis is the brainchild behind Zaza, opened by Raffaele (who just recently moved from Italy) and his cousin. "We want to bring the culture of espresso to Toronto with an authentic Italian espresso bar," he says. It starts with a good product and is enhanced by the social experience. He stresses that in Italy, people take their time - they order a drink and before they know it, they've been sitting for hours. They taste the flavour, they enjoy company.

Zaza CounterToronto is by nature a hustle bustle city, always on the go - not limited to the way most of us drink our espresso. Raffaele crinkles his nose at his paper cups, which distract from the overall flavour of the drink and most of all, eliminate the social aspect he favours.

Zaza seatingComing from Naples ("the city of espresso and pizza," he beams), Raffaele brings his own espresso machine and his special blend, which includes a certain density of cream (an Italian tradition). He says that it's not uncommon for Italian families to boast their own espresso blends. On the menu as well is his own invention, a "latte multistrato", which is multi-layered, and in the summer he'll make espresso granita (iced) as well as gelato. There are a few Italian sweets to choose from, as well as some aperitivi to "cleanse the palate."

Zaza EspressoZaza has been open in Yorkville for about a month; their first location opened about 8 months ago at Royal York and Eglinton. They also opened a bigger spot called Bar Mocha at St. Clair and Yonge, which offers more food and a lounge. But if you're ever in the Yorkville area, I can speak from experience - stop in and say hello to Raffaele. He will introduce himself to you and encourage you to stay for awhile - cause when it comes down to it, that's what enjoying an espresso is all about.

Zaza Menu

Zaza Goods

Zaza Sign

Update: Please note that this cafe no longer serves Illy coffee



Ryan L. / March 28, 2009 at 10:04 am
Try ordering a Latte in Italy and you'll see how 'authentic' lattes are.
me / March 28, 2009 at 10:32 am
I happen to work for Starbucks Coffee, and I couldn't agree with you more. People who buy espresso drinks from starbucks are either ignorant to how lattes are supposed to taste/feel, or have come to accept that they have to compromise quality in place of speed and convenience. Because really, its not possible to create a quality drink when there's a line up of 20 paper cups staring you down, as well as the customers who are waiting for them. Two completely different ballgames in my opinion.
Human Fly / March 28, 2009 at 10:33 am
A few comments: Espresso in a paper cup is disgusting.

$4 for a cappuccino is outrageous.

In my experience, Italians sometimes like to sit for hours in a cafe, but they also enjoy espresso bars where they come in off the street, knock back a shot, then go right out again. Why would you want to linger for hours with an espresso, anyway? It'll get cold after a few minutes and then not be drinkable.
Tron / March 28, 2009 at 10:33 am
They should serve Kebabs. All "authentic" "southern" Italian serve kebabs now. Even in the land of gino Italy. If we were like Italians and 'took our time', maybe we wouldn't need to leave Italy in the first place. I thought Blogto was supposed to cut the crap.

Yorkville definitely needs some authentic Italian kebabs. Its full of Italian bullshit. BTW I thought Starbucks bought the rights to $4 cup o crap.
Dani / March 28, 2009 at 12:32 pm
I know Illy coffee is good, but it's far from authentic Italian espresso.. there is nothing here that you can't get at another cafe in Yorkville or at Aroma Espresso Bar. Now if this guy was importing espresso from Italy, that would be a different story. The reality is, compared to a lot of other places in North America- Toronto already has that Italian coffee shop experience.
Tron / March 28, 2009 at 01:56 pm
Err to the reviewer, Wendy. Can you direct me to an Italian place that has Italian kebabs? They make the best kebabs unlike the lebanese places.

I don't know why all these authentic Italian places in Toronto don't serve kebabs. Last summer I had kebabs in Italy. There was always a latte & kebab combo. Its like Timmy's bagel & double double but more better.

Like I said, I wouldn't pay $4 for a latte. But $5 for a kebab and latte would be enticing. I even asked a lebanese manning one of these authentic Italian places to make me a kebab. Business was slow so he maid me a pizza-kebab! :)

Also as a request from blogto readers, can you ask Raffaele to put kebabs in the menu? Raffaele if you are reading this can I get kebabs with that latte?
3m / March 28, 2009 at 05:26 pm
i'm sitting at urbana coffee on bay and st. joseph right now and reading this is well depressing. the espresso is absolutely terrible and roasted into oblivion but they have wireless internet for me to work. the sad reality is that i need it. if i could put down my laptop at zaza to accommodate the north american adaptation of the espresso bar and comfortably sip a coffee, i'd be there in a heartbeat.

and if the espresso was any good i'd jump ship on my loyalty to urbana and never look back. i've been kind of waiting for a place like this to pop up in the area.
Elle Driver / March 28, 2009 at 07:02 pm
Tron, I don't think you said "kebabs" enough times. ;P

Incredibly enough, the government is looking to ban kebab shops in Italy:

In in regards to Zaza - I'm looking forward to giving this place a try! Can someone also tell me the exact location of Bar Mocha at Yonge/St. Clair? It's in my neighbourhood, but I've never come across it...
Keith replying to a comment from me / March 29, 2009 at 11:48 am
Me, I totally don't agree with you at all. It is very possible to craft quality drinks for customers even when there are 20 people waiting. It isn't a case to two different ballgames. Try visiting Dark Horse Espresso Bar on a sunny Saturday afternoon. There is a line out that extends to the door. The two or three staff still carefully execute every drink that is ordered. The milk is frothed properly and the espresso is extracted with care. The result is a quality drink.
Kent / March 29, 2009 at 09:14 pm
Get the lemon biscotti.
me / March 30, 2009 at 08:06 am
Keith, I don't think you read past my previous comment since nobody else here was really responding to it; so by "you all" you mean, just me?

I'm saying the emphasis on quality at Starbucks rates way lower than most independent coffee shops. I'm admitting myself to being a Starbucks barista, not a real one. It's sad but true, maybe one day.

In addition, when people come into Starbucks for a latte, see 4 staff behind the counter, they expect to get their bullshit in a cup and be out the door within 2 minutes (just how Starbucks standards dictates). I feel that if somebody were wandering into a place like Dark Horse, observing the long line and the two staff members, they'd be a little more understanding that quality takes time.
Oranjette5 / March 30, 2009 at 04:35 pm
Whooooooooa! Kebabs with espresso/coffee?!! That's disgusting. But hey, knock yourselves out. I couldn't care less what the "authentic" Italian cafes are serving. But it's good to know they make great kebabs.

BTW - Gino/a's are a North American product...NOT Italian at all. Not to digress but I do speak from experience being Italian and having worked and lived in Italy.

Keith / March 30, 2009 at 09:51 pm
Me, You are correct. I think that I may have skimmed your comments initially, my apologies.
mr.happy / March 31, 2009 at 06:50 pm
Checked out Zaza, Raffaele was on bar. Basically they make traditional italian style drinks so if you're a fan of manic, dark horse, mercury, hank's, etc. it won't be the style of drinks you're expecting. The traditional style isn't bad, just different. Zaza seems to be aimed more at being a spot for the yorkville people and i think are successful in creating that.

the more espresso bars in toronto the better :D!
Joe / April 1, 2009 at 04:37 pm
Illy cups but they serve their own special blend, something doesn't add up.
T-Bone / April 1, 2009 at 08:11 pm
Finally someone gets it right!

A glass of water served before your espresso is made, just like they do in Italy.

Same price as other places in the areas, but believe me, these people at Zaza know their coffee.

It is a pleasure to visit each day, too bad it is a little smallish by cafe standards, but I'm being a bit too critical.

Italian Stallion / April 7, 2009 at 04:57 pm
Have been into all locations of ZaZa and can attest to the great italian cappuccinos and lattes Raffaele has made. He not only makes a great latte but also alot of italian culture to the environment which makes it even more italian and this in the end always makes for a better experience.

Raffaele, you are great and I might add it may not only be the illa coffee he uses but all the passion he adds to the way the coffees are made.

Try it you will like it
mimmu / April 20, 2009 at 09:41 pm
The espressos are great but Raffaele is better, and the main reason people go to Zaza.
Darryl / April 21, 2009 at 12:50 am
To the persons who are referencing Kebabs and criticizing this review - Go to Tim Hortons for your dirty water and donuts - we really don't need to hear you lament about your lack of taste. Do you know anything about anything? Man some people just get all confused because they lack discipline and don't take the time to understand the subtle differences in life. If you are commenting just to get attention blame your parents who probably didn't hug you enough as children.
Antonella / April 26, 2009 at 09:44 pm
Finally! A great coffee place where you get excellent service, excellent cappuccino's and espresso's. Zaza espresso bar truly provides for a friendly, cozy, comfortable meeting place similar to the Bar's in la bella Italia, where you can truly enjoy the art of savouring great espresso's and cappuccinos such as the one we enjoyed tonight at Zaza. Compliments to Nancy, Carmine and Raffaele. Antonella and Lina
Pierro replying to a comment from Human Fly / April 28, 2009 at 09:36 am
Indeed. The espresso bar on my father's street in Reggio doesn't even have seating. You take the espresso, which is about 1.50 euro, standing and then you leave.
Desertrose / April 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm
i just discovered it, it has a great atmosphere! the espresso is just like the ones i had in italy and no matter what ur critisism is, at the end of the day, its customer service that keeps u in business. Raffaele is full of life and energy and you cant help but leave the place a happier person!:) Thank you Raffaele:)
orchidea mediterranea / April 30, 2009 at 06:08 pm
Mi dispiace averne saputo dell'esistenza del tuo bar solo ieri. Il bar anche se e' piccolo, e' stupendo. Spero che da ora un poi, saro' una delle tue assidue frequentatrici...Impossibile non tornarci!

Voto: 10/10 :)
Alexa replying to a comment from Elle Driver / May 12, 2009 at 03:04 pm
The Bar Mocha is at 40 St. Clair Avenue West, north side of the street. It is just east of the Rolex building, on the ground floor. They have a nice little patio out there now.
Hannah / May 13, 2009 at 08:12 pm
I heart Zaza. I heart Raffaele and his outgoing, vivacious personality. He is great with customers and this is what makes them come back! This is definitely my new hangout in Yorkville.

Thanks Alexa for providing the address of Bar Mocha. Have you been there? What are your thoughts?
Jacquelyn / June 10, 2009 at 11:48 pm
Zaza is the closest thing we will get to a Piazza here in gloomy Toronto, and Raffaelle is not only wonderful with people but also puts real love into his spot-on coffee. Cappuccino/espresso as good as anything I have had in Italy. It's wonderful. I am so glad Zaza has arrived, helps ease the heartbreak of being away from il Belpaese. Thank you Raffaele, Carmine, Nancy...xo!
Troy replying to a comment from Jacquelyn / July 12, 2009 at 10:31 am

Its comments like yours that would inspire me to go to this new hot spot. I have been told by Roman friends of mine that there is a place near the Vatican that serves perhaps the best cappuccino/espresso in all of Rome and ZaZa is the closest thing we will find on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe one day the piazza experience will find us there together.
I will suffer with espresso envy till I get the chance.
Flygirl / July 19, 2009 at 04:27 pm
Went in during my layover in T.O., ordered an espresso and got WHAT?!?!?!? Not Illy that's for sure...I asked the barista and was told something along the lines of "special blend". I've gotten better coffee at airports, at least there it's Illy!!!!
Michael / July 24, 2009 at 09:42 pm
Order the Crodino with sugar rim and lemon twist.
Filippo / September 6, 2009 at 08:43 am
Sono venuto due o tre volte al bar e devo dire che il caffe' che ho bevuto era buono. Non conosco Raffaele, credo che fosse lui il tipo con accento napoletano che intratteneva (in particolare...) "le clienti"... ;-).
Comunque complimenti Raffaele, spero di conoscerti presto, magari oggi dopo l'Air Show.
Filippo "il fiorentino"!
linusbb / September 19, 2009 at 07:39 pm
My $4 cappuccino tasted more like latte and my boyfriend's latte tasted like steam milk. And this was the first time I've seen a barrister stir my drinks -- why stir my drinks when it's not even sweetened? Even MBCO has better coffee.
amante del caffe' replying to a comment from orchidea mediterranea / September 20, 2009 at 10:42 pm
prova Carpe Diem cafe+pizzeria su King St East (King&Sherbourne)... non hanno il solito Illy e il caffe' e' eccezionale...
orchidea mediterranea replying to a comment from amante del caffe' / October 7, 2009 at 06:01 pm
Ho visto il commento solo oggi. Grazie per il suggerimento. Ma tu di dove sei?
na / January 3, 2010 at 06:43 pm
the best cappuccino in toronto are found at pusateris, le gourmand and terroni's. punto finale.
ryan / January 30, 2010 at 06:59 am
You want a good espresso you need to go this little place in Welland. Called cafe amalia. Best espresso I have ever had!!! When go to Niagara I always stop in now...
Arby / May 31, 2010 at 01:59 am
It's been a long time since Dark Horse on Spadina served me good coffee, any style. (Queen St Dark Horse is hit and miss too.) It's seriously crappy in fact. I spend a lot of money there! (I was in today and I bought a mocha latte thingy and an Americano, both which were so bad I didn't drink them. I started with a macchiato which was okay, just.) What a drag!

And they are, in some ways, brutal. I don't see a huge line up of people asking for their money back or for drinks to be corrected, so I wouldn't think that if they fixed my drinks, somehow - the way crappy Starbucks would, without hesitation - I would be making them feel tired of fixing up people's drinks.

They know me. Sometimes, depending on who is around, I get my drink fixed with a smile and genuine friendliness. Everyone there is friendly and they do note that I'm a regular and make a point of asking how I am. So I wouldn't call anyone there unfriendly, but there does seem to be a chilliness to the place, like the staff are just too overworked and underappreciated. I don't know.

As for Zaza, umm, I haven't been in. But I promise to visit. I am a big supporter of indy coffee shops and like to do the crawls and my buddy Shawn at Voulez Vous is always talking to me about shops we can go visit when he can break away from his pretty blue Electra. So, Zaza, sans the Illy, Here we come! Eventually.
beverly / July 23, 2010 at 02:54 pm
The coffee at ZaZa is made to perfection, however free trade organic beans would make the experience steller!!

Love the indy shops, not chains!
jes / October 20, 2010 at 08:30 pm
ZaZa has been a favorite for a long time. Be sure to try the cannoli!
peter / April 24, 2011 at 01:09 pm
zaza has favorite coffe in toronto you are in ltaty with zaza
henri / May 20, 2011 at 03:04 am
In Italy ppl usually drink espressos in a hurry, in the morning at the bar, and maybe after lunch at a restaurant. Italians don't like to sit around a lot, they're always on the move.
mike / July 14, 2011 at 10:26 am
Yes, if you order a latte in italy you'll get...... a glass of milk. I went to ZaZa's and found the espresso superior to most places in toronto. B-Espresso on queen st. also makes a good espresso/macchiato etc. Rafaele is truly a southern italian (ditto for me). it's good coffee.
pasquale / April 12, 2012 at 12:33 am
sono da un mese in toronto e la prima persona speciale che ho conosciuto e raffaele il caffè di zaza è il miglior caffè di toronto se chiudi l occhi è come stare a napoli a piazza del plebiscito a bere caffè.il servizzio eccellente e anche la cordialita,andate a provare in yorkville zaza espresso.
Luca replying to a comment from pasquale / August 27, 2012 at 07:42 pm
Grazie Rafaele, I mean pasquale!
neal / September 26, 2012 at 10:56 pm
I am never going to this place again... Not only did the 'gent' behind the counter refuse to serve me coffee because it 'was downstairs', but he also shorted my change back by $4.00. Not a big deal but I essentially paid $9.04 for two espressos, and this isn't the first time this has happened at Zaza's.
The sad part is, the owner came to the restaurant I work at and told me to come by to Zaza's for an espresso so I came to support his business, but after that, I am never going back. You can be sure that my colleagues heard about this. Worst part is,it's a beautiful place, great owner and good espresso, but I'm turned off. Thanks anyways, Zaza's...
Angela / June 10, 2013 at 01:52 am
I go there to hear Raffaele say "Ciao Bellissima"

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