I remember a particularly awkward exchange in Brussels a long time ago, in French, regarding my impression of the city:
Someone: So, what was your favorite thing about Brussels?
AG: Petit déjeuner (Breakfast!)
Someone: Euh…? [In a characteristically French way, eyebrows get raised and…] Tu veux dire, Petit Sablon?! (Translation: you mean to say in your silly French accent, Petit Sablon, the main square, of course!)
AG: No, no, I meant to say breakfast… And on I went about breakfast in Brussels.
I have absolutely no doubt that this person thought I was trying to dig myself out of a deeper and deeper hole, covering for what seemed like a very amateur linguistic error, having unquestionably butchered the treasured words of Molière… I assure you though that it was no mistake. Breakfast is the best part of Brussels, although that’s probably not saying too much. So to clarify how intensely I feel about the definite appeal of a typical European breakfast I’d even venture to say it’s the best part of Parisian culture too.
…Perfect European breakfast in NY? Here are the qualification criteria:
- No griddled eggs, no greasy potatoes, no wiggly strips of bacon, and definitely no fruit garnish on the plate (ok, I need to throw it out there now that seeing the unripe orange / melon slice is like hearing nails on a chalkboard – just don’t do it!)
- There’s no need for the number of ounces in your coffee to exceed the realm of single digits. No Venti’s allowed. It goes without saying that anything resembling a Mocha Al-Pacino does not exist in this perfect world of breakfast bliss.
- While it is indeed a universally accepted truth that espresso is better than drip coffee, I’m not here to convince you of that. But let’s at lest give that glistening $10,000+ La Marzocco machine and the guy who shelled out for it the respect they deserve. If a standard espresso is too concentrated for you, try an allongé (FR) or lungo (IT) from the machine – an extra long and therefore diluted pull, which cuts the bitterness, increases the volume and is actually pretty good!
- T I M E. This one is the most essential part of the experience. We’ve established that it’s not about the eggs, in fact it’s not about the food, and probably not even about the coffee either (although the latter should naturally be of very, very good quality). It’s about taking a few moments to forget the characteristic stress of living in NYC and starting your day off correctly.
Zibetto creates that perfect opportunity.
Taking one’s coffee should be a social experience. A long marble standing bar increases the social quotient. So does service in a porcelain cup, which invites you to linger. Have a chat with regulars over a perfectly proportioned cappuccino ($3.50) with its rich foam cap (only before noon though, being correct to true Italian form) or a macchiato ($2.50) astutely marked with but a trace of foam. Purists will appreciate an amazingly aromatic espresso ($2), the blend of which was personally selected in Italy by owner Anastasios Nougos, who welcomes his guests with a smile each and every morning.
If you believe that orange and grapefruit juice is not worth drinking if it’s not squeezed on premise, then Zibetto will not deprive you of that pleasure. Winter or summer, the juices are fresh and refreshing, always sweet and never have a trace of twang. We appreciate its availability as a small taste in a shot glass ($2) or more substantial portion ($4).
There’s a plentiful selection of biscotti and croissants or cornettos ($1-3) imported from Italy, from plain to the ethereal vanilla custard-filled and everything in between. The bar also features light sandwiches and panini ($6 and up) as well as desserts such as tiramisu, which are popular later in the day.
But back to breakfast: whether it’s just a coffee or the full continental, your morning craving and resulting consummation is merely an excuse to dip into the oasis that is Zibetto. Settle in for five or twenty-five minutes, bring your newspaper or a friend and delight in a start to your busy day that is both satisfying to the stomach and soul…
As the Grands Boulevards rise into the dawn of yet another busy workday, Parisians begin to settle into their favorite nondescript sidewalk café for a necessary moment. Espresso or croissant in hand, a glance at the newspaper and a long glare into the street from the outward facing seats as the world passes them by. A deeply nourishing experience before confronting the day ahead. Here, our croissants may not be as flaky, our pastries not as perfect; the accents may not be as acute and the heels not as high—but thanks to Zibetto and the scarce few sanctuaries of early morning civility, New Yorkers can now enjoy that same sense of tranquillity and a brief opportunity to catch one’s breath before the entering the characteristic chaos that NYC is so well known for.
WHERE: Zibetto Midtwon West: 1385 6th Avenue, between 56th and 57th 1,50 €* (Espresso) / 2,30 € (Croissant) Rating: Should be a part of your daily routine.
Honorable mentions on the Light Breakfast / Coffee Counter theme in Midtown: Blue Bottle Midtown West: 1 Rockefeller Plaza, Below-ground concourse south of skating rink 1,90 € (Espresso) / NA (Croissant) – Wtf! Rating: Well worth the obnoxious attitude and the trip into the bowels of Rockefeller Center. Super-concentrated cold brew iced coffee is highly recommended.
Fika Midtown West: 41 West 58th, between 5th and 6th 1,90 € (Espresso) / 2,30 € (Croissant) Rating: A great time for experts and novices alike; however, points deducted for interruption of zen-ness by everlasting line of latte-seeking ladies rushing to work.
Bottega del Vino Midtown East: 7 East 59th, between Madison and 5th 2,70 € (Espresso) / 2,70 € (Croissant) Rating: Overpriced, but makes the cut (mainly because the editor’s boyfriend would fire me if I excluded it from the shortlist).
*Exchanged at $1.30 per Euro. Service not included.
By: Adam Gross