It should be no surprise that one of my favorite travel activities is to sit at a cafe and sip a good latte or cappuccino, watching the locals go about their business, and talking politics when I get the chance.
On my way to Morocco, I stopped by London for a few days to sleep off the jet lag and see a few friends I’ve met traveling. As I do like to hang out in Soho [it reminds me of New York’s Greenwich Village]’ I happened upon Bar Italia, and a fantastically smooth latte. Just what I needed.
Bar Italia was opened just a few years after the end of WWII in the winter of 1949 by Lou and Caterina Polledri. Lou was originally from Piacenza, Italy. The couple had already opened up a cafe in Long Acre, Covent Garden a few years earlier, and then saw an opportunity for a cafe in Soho, which would not only be a cafe but could also act as a social center for the Italian community in London.
At the time, much like Greenwich Village, Soho was an Italian community with many shops and restaurants so it necessarily followed that people such as waiters would have time on their hands in between their shifts to come and meet and talk with other Italians.
If you were a waiter and unemployed you would get help from the other waiters to find a job. It was also a place where people who had lost family members during the War could use social networking to find out what happened to their loved ones.
Bar Italia has the look of a classic Italian cafe. The red and white formica is an important part of the Bar. Original pieces remain from 1949. The Gaggia coffee machine has been there fifty years now, and many elements, including the floor tiles, are original.
The next time you are on Frith Street in Soho, stop by for a latte. You may just see me there!