The perfect espresso shot can be an elusive drink in San Diego. It seems that many places (and Buzz has tried many), don’t train their baristas properly. If it’s not the barista, it’s the espresso machine, the grind of the coffee and of all things, the weather that can affect getting that one ounce shot topped with crema (that creaminess you see on the top of the liquid). A shot isn’t a four-ounce bitter cup of coffee that many places serve. More isn’t better when it comes to a shot of espresso.
Barely a year old, Toma Sol sits at the corner of Washington and Albatross Streets. Owner Seekey Cacciatore has trained staff that know how to pull a shot. A perfect shot. The comfortable independently owned neighborhood café also carries a varied selection of foods that include breakfast wraps, lunch sandwiches, beers and wines and even gluten free brownies and cookies so good you’d never guess there’s no gluten. Cacciatore books interesting events from art openings to fundraisers and the café is the drop off place for Garden of Eden’s CSA box of fresh produce The organic and sustainable coffee comes from Cafe Motto. 301 W. Washington St., Mission Hills, 619-291-1159, Monday to Friday 6:30am to 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 7:30am to 8pm.
Caffé Calabria in North Park roasts coffee for many places around town and is a Buzz favorite for the quintessential espresso. They now serve Neapolitan style pizza Wednesday through Sunday from 5pm to 11pm. Among the others with Calabria’s beans: If you’re in Liberty Station, Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe makes the best cinnamon roll in the city along with great breads and sandwiches–that partner perfectly with the good coffee. Con Pane’s staff is trained by Caffé Calabria to understand the intricacies that make a shot. Gelato Vero Caffe at the corner of Washington and India Streets also uses Calabria’s coffee to make good shots. Their espresso bean gelato in a shot of espresso makes a fabulous afternoon pick-me-up.
A morning espresso at Little Italy’s Caffe Italia is almost like being in Italy. Some of the locals hang at the end of the bar dishing in Italian while sipping a perfect espresso and commenting on everyone who picks up their just-made drink nearby. The espresso bar uses LavAzza coffee–a company that began in 1895 in Turin, Italy and continues there today. They also carry Gelato Vero’s various gelato flavors, including Buzz’s all time fav espresso bean. 1704 India St., Little Italy, 619-234-6767.
A few places Buzz wishes for a better pull: Ask for a shot at Red’s in Point Loma and unless you specify short, you can end up with half a cup of coffee–that is not a shot. Buzz likes the vibe of Red’s, the roasted- in-house coffee at Red’s, even some of their morning pastries, but goodness gracious, please Cyndy Grace Savoy (owner), train your staff. It’s a waste of really good coffee not to have each and every person know how to make a proper shot. Is it because there’s an ever-changing morning staff who apparently are not trained on the espresso machine or have never heard the words short shot or proper shot or simply espresso? They also have beer and wine and good food long into the night. 1017 Rosecrans, Point Loma, 619-523-5540.
Across the street at Living Room Cafe ask for an espresso and you end up with nearly 5 ounces. They will remake it to whatever you want, but that shouldn’t be the case for a proper espresso. Come on Living Room, an espresso isn’t a vente!