Rating: Third Wave, with Ditta Artigianale and Udine-based Coffee
If you find your way on the Circonvallazione Ostience, a bustling avenue in the Garbatella district, you might just pass up the Nero Vaniglia Caffè & Pastry shop. It’s on a corner, totally unassuming, and nothing to compare with the other 3 dozen cafes on this avenue. No chairs line its outside area, and all you can see from the street is the old ‘Pasticceria’ sign that adorns this historic locale, that was once home to the Pasticceria Gori that inhabited this space since the late 1950s. I read on the Italian food digest ‘Gambero Rosso’ article that this place was a ‘specialty coffee’ locale. Just a few days earlier than the article, Marjani Coffee roaster told me also that there was a place in Circonvallazione Ostiense doing drip coffee. A few weeks ago I got the chance to stop by, and here’s the nice thing. The barista (the one who served me the espresso I had that same visit) turned down my request for filter coffee and cold brew coffee because they were out of specialty beans. This is positive for the simple reason that in this place you won’t get short changed into having the typical espresso roast passed for something else. The barista was very apologetic and apparently the beans they use from Ditta Artigianale hadn’t come, and the ones that they indeed had, were not to the barista’s likings. So he apologized and told me that any day they were waiting for a shipment that had been delayed (and yes, this is indeed true, in Italy the Post is like a Russian roulette!). So that was very positive, no BS stories, no BS about anything here, just simple quality and very very nice personnel. The locale is smaller than I imagined, there are three small tables on the right hand side, a normal length (about 3 meters long) bar running on the left. The other side of the place is the ‘manufacture’ so to say, the lab where all the sweets are made. Supposedly this place serves up some of the fines cornetti in town, and that says quite a lot about their dedication to what they serve their clientele. So while I was there I decided to try the espresso.

This is what I got served:

Presentation: A nice sparkling cup of water was served immediately. When I took my café there were about 4 other guys having espresso there and I got a chance to see the barista in action. I didn’t see if he flushed the group head because he was already serving an espresso as I got there, and mine came last in the row, so essentially the thing was ‘flushed’ as it wasn’t sitting there for minutes without being used before me. The cup is a rather large one for espresso in Rome, but typical size for other locales in northern Europe and the US.

Temperature of Cup: Temperature was very good, not scalding, not tepid. Warm and fused with what I hoped would be the temperature of the espresso.

Quantity: Nice short shot, probably a solid espresso, but in this cup it looked a bit shorter, and I liked this. There was only one pull of the lever and no pushing or forcing the shot on its way as I’ve seen some do here in Rome.

Temperature: Ahh.. yes, good temperature. It was brewed on the lower spectrum of the brewing scale and I was happy. A lever machine that doesn’t boil the espresso! Bravo!

Volume/Consistency: It was light, with an oiliness that was silky, smooth and not heavy.

Crema: It was persistent, on the thin side, but very elastic and completely uniform, not over extracted, quite good. It had a distinctive amber-reddish color that speaks of the beans used.

Odor: Not really fragrant, and no sign of fruitiness, etc.

Taste: This was a very sharp start with a punchy bitter taste. It was not rancid, but simply brightly bitter and tart. It wasn’t complex, and quite uni-thematic in taste. It was slightly nutty in taste, but predominantly a controlled bitterness.

Overall: It was a normal, solidly made mid-range espresso. I was curious as to how their coffee would be, since the place is, at first sight, predominantly dedicated to sweets/pastries. As is the norm in Rome, anytime you have a pastry shop cum café you get ultra bitter coffee. Here in stead, you do get strong coffee, but it was definitely controlled, an quite balanced.

The setup: They had a very beautiful Piazza San Marco lever machine, and it was very skillfully tuned in with the roast and grinds they were using. I believe their grinder was a black-clad Astoria / Mazzer. The coffee they were serving their espresso from was Oro Caffè, this is a North Italian Udine based roaster that I’ve tried before at the Picasso Caffè Bistrot (in the Viale G. Marconi area). They offer a good lineup of single-origin coffees, but their espresso are very ‘Italian’ in scope and taste. This espresso was equally good in comparison to that I had at the Picasso Caffè, which was also very well made.​

So fortune had it and I got a chance to pass by the Nero Vaniglia again just a few days ago. This time there was a different barista, and I asked if I could have a V60 and she said yes. She was busy with about 3 other people before me, so the told me to take a seat and she’d get to it. Perfect. I didn’t want a rushed job, and she made it clear she wouldn’t fudge with it either. Again, this place makes it clear that quality comes first. Once she was able to get to me, she asked me which of the two beans I’d like. They had the Ethiopia Borboya and the El Salvador Red Bourbon Finca Santa Giulia. I opted for the South American.​

The barista did all the proper steps for a perfect brew. First she weighed the beans, then she ground them in a separate grinder, and made sure the grinder was clean from previous grounds. She then boiled the water, wet the filter, warmed the carafe, and prepared the brew. She weighed it and timed it and simply done exactly by the book. No fuss, no BS. Simply terrific.

She served me a heaping cup, and asked if I wanted the remainder and I declined, and she poured the rest for herself and had it while she was working. I.e., she likes this stuff as much as I do!​

The taste was very smooth, there was a light buttery smell with mint and currants coming out through.​

​When it cooled you could see the buttery smell I felt turn into honey, butterscotch. It was not particularly bright, nor acidic at all, which is what I wanted in this. I didn’t get any of the chocolate flavor that the tasting notes of the coffee show, but this is normal.​

Overall, it was very well executed, and a very good cup of brewed coffee.​

They also offer Cold Brew, and siphon which I didn’t try, but which I will the next time. The very nice thing about this café, in my opinion, are two things: one are the prices which are very affordable and not over the top. The other, is the attention that the staff give to you, the customer, and to the product they serve. Rome is overwhelmingly full of people who talk BS all the time, and don’t deliver. Here it is the opposite.  And this is excellent. While they don’t roast here in house, nor use a local roaster, the setup and service they offer is akin to what you’ll get at the few other Third Wave like places here in Rome, and this without the hipster hype or attitude. This is a place to return to over and over.
(Here are some pix from the first time I stopped in, the above picture is from the second -i.e. see the different coffee on display.)




Nero Vaniglia
La Dama Dolce SRL
Circonvallazione Ostiense 201
00154 Roma
Tel. 06 578 0306

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *