Lavazza is an family-owned business of coffee importers in Italy. The corporation is big in that country, branding itself as “Italy’s favorite coffee” and claiming hundreds of millions in revenue a year. Despite this, Lavazza is relatively unknown outside of Italy, in part because of its extremely small number of shops outside the country. Confusingly, it operates three different chains of shops: one is only in Europe and the Middle East, one is only in India, and the final one, Lavazza Espression, has 36 locations around the world…and only six are in the U.S. Five in Chicago.
Anyway, Lavazza Espression is a chain of sleek modern coffee shops which offer imported coffee and some light cuisine to go along with it. The coffee is rich and strong, and it comes in a number of sweet treats like any other coffee shop, cappuccino, espresso, mochas, lattes and others. Judging by the crowd coming through here, it’s a very convenient coffee so it’s popular with foot traffic. Certainly better than your standard international coffee chain, and I suspect its strength and potency is that makes it so popular.
The food is a menu strongly tied to Italian and Mediterranean tastes. Treats include tasty items like breads, muffins and scones while crisp paninis and stuffed baguettes make for a light lunch. The crisp sandwiches are stuffed with tasty ingredients, and make a great light meal. They’re served alongside a simple salad with a vinaigrette mix. It’s beautiful enough to be a garnish, but it also tastes very good. I suggest the panini, as all of the iterations of this dish that I have tried (ham, turkey and vegetarian) are very good. They’re best fresh, though, so I would suggest you sit down and eat rather than carry-out.
The concept is great; the bright restaurant benefits from a red-and-white decor with very sleek furniture to give it a different feel, though it’s not necessarily strongly Italian like the rest of the place. The walk-up counter allows people to grab coffee or drinks and go (a fair mix of people do both) and the location I visited even had a display case with an example of everything on the menu, including the sandwiches. Fortunately, they don’t serve these to people.
So the locations are different, some are in considerably ritzier areas than others, but overall the dress code seems to be the same all around. Lavazza’s relative obscurity in this country is a shame, because it makes a great cup of coffee. Chicagoans (and those in the select few areas where Lavazza Espression can be found) are lucky to have this great stuff in town.
- Espression really has the tastiest drinks, they’re the best on the menu. The basic coffee is good, though.
- Nothing on the menu is very heavy, so I would call this place a light breakfast or lunch cuisine place.
- The different locations vary in ambiance, though in general those in the United States are still pretty casual.