Bar Italia

22 Frith Street Soho London W1D 4RF

Long before there was Starbucks, back in the days when coffee still meant Italy, there was Bar Italia. Opened in 1949, this Soho landmark can justly claim to have sparked off London’s café scene – think Cliff Richard in Espresso Bongo, daddy-o – and it still makes the best cappuccino in town. Don’t bother with the handful of pavement tables outside; instead, squeeze into the teensy, gloriously retro interior to enjoy a strong espresso, plus maybe a ciabatta sandwich or Italian pastry, and, above all, the atmosphere – at its most intense when there’s Italian football on the TV. Despite the high prices, this remains at root a genuine community café, catering to the sizeable local contingent of Italians and at times snooty towards those who don’t speak the lingo or aren’t regulars. At night – it pretty much stays open 24hr – Bar Italia and its vintage neon sign become a beacon for Soho’s clubbers, chancers and dirty stop-outs – as celebrated in Pulp’s Bar Italia, a melancholy slice of late-night cool that rounds off their classic Different Class album.

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