Don’t hate me because I am mentioned Starbucks and Milan in the same line. When I read that Starbucks had decided to open in Milan (of all places), I will admit, I was annoyed, angry and slightly heartbroken. But I changed my mind when I realized that the Fashion Capital didn’t get just any Starbucks, it was the Reserve Roastery, the coffee house’s specialty caffes and one of six in the world.
While Europe’s first Reserve Roastery from Starbucks adds a new corner to Milan’s coffee landscape, it’s best to remember that Italy’s fashion capital perfected the pastry scene, introduced espresso to the world and invented aperitivo hour long before the Seattle-based shop started whipping up frappuccinos. Here’s a look at some of my favorite coffee shops in Milan.
Yep, the Roastery makes the list but not for why you are thinking. In September 2018, the Milano Roastery opened in Piazza Cardusio. I went for the opening and talk with hundreds of Italians – from my taxi driver to hotel school kids from Monza- who all told me the same thing. They were happy that Starbucks came to Italy because it gave them hope, and nope, it would never replace the local bar.
The 25,000-square-foot Milano Roastery is a celebratory, steampunk nod to Seattle coffee-making. Venetian marble counters, glass light fixtures and Palladiana mosaic floors offer a locally inspired backdrop to a labyrinth of sorting tubes and a mega-roaster that is said to provide coffee for all of Europe. It’s worth a look.
As for menu, expect a deep dive into coffee culture, from bean selection and roasting to offering multiple brewing methods (Modbar pour-over, coffee press and the visually stunning siphon) and beverages (espresso, cold brew and the proprietary clover-brewed coffee).
This will make you happy. Tradition and treats. Pasticceria Marchesi has long been the spot for pastries and coffee. Marchesi is one of the crown jewels of Milanese pastry shops. Family run for nearly two centuries, Miuccia Prada stepped in and acquired the pastry shop, opening a few more in the past few years and bringing architect Roberto Baciocchi.
Every Marchesi a majestic monument with mint green marble walls, cherry wood counters and clear crystal shelves that show off cakes, croissants, chocolates, jams and delectable confections.
Cova is my heart’s desire. This was the very first place I ever had a Negroni Sbagliato. Two stylish woman, several decades older than me, were catching up and ordered the cocktail. I later learned that they were sciure, Miilan-speak for extraordinarily stylish Milanese women. It fits because Cova on Via Montenapoleone has long been a favorite of the international fashion scene.
The 200-year-old coffee and pastry shop is worth a visit for the people-watching alone (the bar is a popular spot for the city’s fashion elite). But also for its design – mosaic floors, gilded mirrors and a crystal chandelier drop not-so-subtle hints that Milan takes its coffee as seriously as its style. To take it all in, you’ll need to nab a table where coffee drinks and aperitivo cost a little more, but you’ll also receive plush banquets and stellar service.
Yesteryear and loving it, Pasticceria Cucchi is traditional pastry shop and bar that’s slightly off the radar. A local institution nonetheless, Cucchi is also JJ Martin of La Double J’s favorite caffeine refill. Why? Most likely for its original mid-century décor and formally clad waiters who charm everyone from elegant couples to school-aged kids.
What to order? The morning espresso is a must, of course. But I go nuts for the sweet pastries and savoury snack. Cucchi also wants your to linger into the night with a bite of El Meneghin (cake made with candied fruits) and a glass of maraschino.
Okay, okay. this isn’t quite a coffee bar, it’s a the hotel bar at Palazzo Parigi Hotel & Grand Spa Milano. I love it for its art-nouveau style. It reminds of what coffee culture must have been in the early 1900s, or maybe I am just making this up. The bistro lounge is ideal for a nightcap and its afternoon tea (served daily from 4 to 7 p.m.) is a chic, Parisian-style treat. And you know you have your classic Negroni here.
A version of the article first appeared in Forbes Travel, October 2018. Updated in 2022.