International coffee powerhouse Illy is stretching its espresso-tinged fingers in to the heavily populated world of San Francisco cafes with Espressamente Illy, a high-end cafe now open at 123 Battery. It is Illy's ninth Esspressamente to open in the United States.
Though most Americans can only identify Illycaffe by the air-sealed cylindrical tubes of coffee that rest atop the hoppers of so many lower-end coffee joints, the company has been in existence since 1933 and is one of the originators of what we now call specialty coffee.
Illycaffe's founder, Francesco Illy, was the inventor of the first automatic espresso machine, the illeta, a precursor to the fancy doodads we see today. His son, Ernesto Illy, helped Illycaffe to become one of the first coffee roasters in the world to purchase beans directly from the source in countries like Brazil and Ethiopia. Without the Illy clan, our lightly roasted batches of micro-lotted Ethiopian Yirgacheffe may never have seen the light of day.
The 40-seat Espressamente Cafe is meant to give us thick-skulled Americans a "genuine experience of Italian coffee worldwide," as its press materials say, with Illy's trademark espresso pulled from specially made Nuova Simonelli lever machines. Illy's master barista, Giorgio Milos, will be offering tutorial-style visits to the staff.
The food menu has been put together by Joyce Goldstein, whose legendary Square One Restaurant was the first Illy account in the city of San Francisco. Espressamente's menu will feature Italian-influenced dishes like grilled fontina-prosciutto sandwiches and insalata cesare. San Francisco's new wave of coffeeshops are producing delicious roasts -- but old timers like Illy might be able to teach you something as well.