Spazio Caffe, Santa Monica

1511-C Montana Ave · Santa Monica, CA 90403 · Neighborhood: Santa Monica

Time to get out your Rosetta Stone and start practicing Italian. Well, at least if you’re a coffee lover make sure you know how to say the phrase, “vorrei una tazza di caffè?” — “I would like a cup of coffee.”

Spazio Caffe, which opened up in Santa Monica this weekend from owners Laszlo Gerber and David Sandor King, is definately not your average American coffee house. In fact, it’s not American at all. It’s a sleek euro-styled café modeled after the popular Italian coffee houses which are known all over the world for their delicately flavored espressos and specialty roasts from the Italian coffee brand, Manuel. They are known for their rich and thick gourmet sipping chocolates, teas and Euro inspired menu items and pastries.

Although the brand is a (very popular) chain, “It’s not like a Starbucks,” explained Laszlo. “You go to Starbucks and nobody is taking to each other, everyone is on their computer working. The café’s in Italy are much different. You go to have a good cup of espresso, meet friends and actually talk to people. You enjoy each other’s company.”

While they do offer free wifi for the conversationally impaired, Laszlo told me that their café is instead more focused on providing a comfortable place for the community to convene — over a darn good cup of java of course.

I sampled the hazelnut hot chocolate and was mentally transported to Europe for a moment, you know, where life seems uncomplicated and people just chill and relax in the cafés for hours and hours on end (don’t these people have jobs!?).

They feature hot made-to-order specialty coffees like the Baciami which is an espresso served with creamy milk-hazelnut and chocolate cream or the Agrumi, a hot creamy-milk and mandarin/orange jam infused espresso. There are also cold specials to refresh and revive you during those hot summer days, namely the Cóccolo, a whole milk and coconut syrup espresso. The beverages here are so cute, dainty and beautifully poured, you’ll definitely find yourself instagraming a photo before you slurp and sip your way into a caffeine-high heaven.

As for the food, you can expect freshly baked croissants, organic omelets and scrambles for breakfast, grilled paninis with Italian prosciutto and cheeses and chicken or smoked salmon salads. You’ll find nothing too heavy here. The menu is light, just like in traditional European cafés (where everyone is so gosh darn skinny!).

Desserts include their specialty drinking chocolates; dark chocolate, coconut, rum coffee, mint, or whiskey to name a few of the 18 decadent flavors. On a hot day, you might instead share with a pal one of their refreshing sorbets beautifully served up in hollowed out coconut or pineapple.

The brand, the furniture, the design, the coffee, the chef — everything is imported from Italy. Well, except the owners. Gerber and King are actually Hungarian and they are well versed in all things Italian and most importantly, in their coffee. King used to sell Manuel coffee in his popular cafe-restaurant in Hungry before he sold his business and headed for the states.

Now the pair, who have been friends since grade school, also share ownership of two Caffé Bello locations in West Hollywood and Santa Monica, and already have plans to open up another Spazio off Main Street and Rose.

Ok. So how authentic IS this place, really?

Check out the hilarious European-styled cookie that comes with your coffee. I love it! This hot guy on the wrapper has his little cup of espresso in hand and his faithful dog by his side — he’s ready to take on the world!

You go Euro-boy!

Get your Italian fix right here in Santa Monica — no passport needed.

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