The single best shot of espresso I’ve had in my life is at Café Vittoria in Boston’s North End.
Bold statement, I know. Yes, Café Fixe in Boston is terrific, they have a spectacular espresso machine and grinder and their technique is flawless. Coffee Slingers here in Oklahoma City uses a cutting edge Synesso machine and likewise flawless technique. Stumptown in Portland or NYC? Blue Bottle in San Francisco? Forget about it!
The North End is the Italian neighborhood of Boston, and is in fact one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods (which I guess makes it one of the oldest in America). The North End is known for its many cafes and I believe the highest per-capita concentration of restaurants anywhere in America. This café is shaped like a U, with two entrances at the open end surrounding a stairway going downstairs in Stanza di Cigari, a swanky cigar bar. Vittoria is full of old-school café tables and chairs, lots of old posters and travel ads (love it) and has a little used hang-out area in the back. They don’t sell much: some coffee/espresso drinks, some booze on shelves behind the counter, some gelato and Italian pastries and that’s it. However, the espresso…magic!
If I’m even anywhere near the North End I stop by this place and get a double. I don’t care if the service is slow and they only take cash and the double espresso costs like six bucks once you factor in the tip, as far as I’m concerned it really is just that good. I don’t know, maybe it’s the experience? Or maybe it’s nostalgia that’s coloring my memory, but then again I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad experience with getting espresso there. Whatever it may be, going to Café Vittoria and getting a double with a ricotta stuffed cannoli at least a couple times a year is an absolute must do for me, and I think it’s my favorite after dinner stop in the North End as well.