Shopping can be thirsty work, and any excuse to take a break is appreciated. The newest refreshment stop along Santana Row offers coffee drinks and snacks with an Italian twist. Lavazza Espression, located near the Stevens Creek entrance just beyond the Yardhouse, is the first local outpost of the venerable Italian coffee company. Lavazza’s history stretches back to the late 19th-century Turin. The company, still a family trade, boasts that it is the most popular brew in Italy.
The Lavazza Espression at Santana Row occupies a long narrow space, with patio tables for good-weather days. The interior has a distinct retro-moderne vibe, with red vinyl chairs in Monsanto House of the Future styles and tables decked out in red swirly designs like the kind found on ‘50s-vintage kitchenette sets. The result is sleekly comfortable although not homeyÑit’s not the kind of place to park yourself all afternoon. I imagined idling over an espresso between flights at a La Dolce Vita-era airport. Large high-concept photos culled from Lavazza’s famous fashion calendars dominate the walls.
In addition to expressos, cappuccinos and lattes, Lavazza boasts a long menu of more exotic, flavored coffee drinks. The Bicierin comes in an elegant glass cup with stainless-steel handle and base, and features carefully poured layers of espresso, hot chocolate and heavy creamÑbeautiful to look at but a bit too sweet for an afternoon refresher. It would be better as a night cap. The Croccantino, which gilts a shot of espresso with caramel, brittle pieces and whipped cream, is a kind of miniature sundae. When the weather heats up, Lavazza also specializes in whipped and iced coffee drinks, as well as various fruit smoothies and crushes.
I turned my coffee break into a light lunch from the surprisingly robust cafe menu. The light, toasty sliced-meat sandwich was accompanied by an excellent, piquant green salad with a peppery balsamic dressing. To chase some of the chocolate taste from the Bicierin, I stopped back inside to admire the gleaming espresso machines and order a latte to go (beans in bulk are also available). It came a trifle too hot but with an elaborate design of nesting hearts drawn through the foamÑthe mark of an attentive barista.
300 Santana Row, San Jose; 408.261.1830.