Quality Espresso in a Former Coffee Wasteland

Reviewing Zibetto Espresso Bar in midtown Manhattan
Quality Espresso in a Former Coffee Wasteland
Elizabeth Haddad

In midtown Manhattan, a previous wasteland for coffee (besides the ubiquitous Starbucks on every corner), Swedish-born, Greek-Italian Anastasios Nougos opened up a true Italian espresso bar. There are no tables and no flavored syrups, and the authenticity is further established by the host of European transplants packed into the space. Opened in 2006, Zibetto (57th Street at Sixth Avenue) grew out of Nougos’ Sicilian heritage; he spent his whole life watching his father "not able to find good coffee" in Sweden, he says with a laugh.

The espresso bar is an integral part of Italian life. Al banco — Italian for "at the bar" — is a meeting place for everyone in Italy, from the "boy who picks up trash to the CEO," Nougos explains; "social barriers disappear." With Zibetto, he strives to achieve the same environment, where each patron stands side by side, regardless of where they come from. It is a ritual, he says, where people comes together, united by coffee, "like a big family."

In 2007, Anastasios traveled to Italy for five weeks, studying the coffee culture and spending time at the roastery in Bologna where Zibetto’s coffee is roasted (according to Nougos’ specifications). He is dedicated to remaining pure in his vision — he could do it no other way, he says. "Coffee is my passion, my hope," and it was "imperative" that Zibetto was authentic, top to bottom; he stays in touch with the entire process, from harvest to cup.

The menu is simple: no drip-coffee, only espresso; the beans are medium roasted, the traditional Italian way. The espresso is pulled beautifully through a Brasilia machine, with a thick crema on top. Zibetto serves, arguably, the best cornetti in the city; made in Bologna, they are frozen and shipped to the cafe to be baked on the premises. Panini and other Italian sweets are made at the café.

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