The story of Caffè Reggio: when the cappuccino landed in New York from Calabria

Caffè Reggio in New York (source: bizjournal)

Cappuccino after eleven in the morning is illegal. Someone explain that to the Americans.” So the famous journalist Beppe Severgnini told about America in 2007 and underlines the passion for this drink.

There is still today a corner full of Calabrian pride right in the heart of Manhattan, In New York. An imaginary bridge that connects the city of the big apple with Reggio Calabria and it is a story that begins far away. The Cappuccino is the protagonist, a drink that has now become indispensable and which for many is a real ritual.

The story of Domenico Parisi, a Calabrian who missed the Capuchin

It’s pretty well known: the average American loves cappuccino and sips it at any time of the day; it often accompanies dinners and lunches instead of water or a glass of wine. Like many recipes and local dishes in America, its name has remained Italian, so as not to forget its history.

How did the Americans discover this drink?

We are in the 1920s and – like so many southerners – the young man Domenico Parisi leaves Calabria and lands in New York in search of fortune. He immediately gets work as a hairdresser, which allows him to make a living in this huge city that welcomes everyone without distinction. The American dream is within reach for anyone who wants to work and those who want to complete a project.

Although life does not seem difficult, a Mimi something is missing that cannot be found anywhere in the new world. The hairdresser from Reggio Calabria would like to sip a cappuccino, but no one makes it. There is tea, the American long coffee, but there is no bar where you can drink one Cappuccino.

The brilliant idea arises spontaneously in Mimì’s mind: if no one in America knows how to do it, he will prepare it for himself (and for others).

It will be Domenico Parisi himself who will teach the Americans the art of the Capuchins. A drink made from coffee and steamed milk, often topped with a sprinkling of bitter cocoa; a revisited milk and coffee invented in 1700 in the European courts.

Yet, despite its noble origins, the Capuchin became famous thanks to our local poverty, which consisted of cardboard suitcases on ships crossing the ocean.

The young Parisi returns to Italy with a nice nest egg and it is thanks to these savings that he is able to buy an espresso machine with a steam valve. As much as America was the land of the future, those kinds of cars didn’t exist there. So Mimì’s dream as a hairdresser turns into an urban barista in a cafe.

The dream finally has a name: Caffè Reggio

At number 119 McDougal Street in New York, Domanico Parisi opened Caffè Reggio in 1927.

Success is immediate. The cappuccino enters the lives of Americans and it is Parisi who is the only one who makes the machine work. In fact, when he is at work as a hairdresser, the cafe is closed. But it’s just a parenthesis: soon Mimì leaves her job and devotes herself to the bar, which from that moment becomes a meeting place for artists and personalities as well.

In fact, Caffè Reggio has often been the set for famous films, such as The godfather or Serpico. the local of Greenwich Village has seen important guests among its rich paintings from the 16th and 18th centuries and the historic coffee machine, license plate 1902.

In 1959, President Kennedy gave a rally right in front of Caffé Reggio because that place is now a symbol of all Americans who dream big.

Anyone who thinks this is an old story is wrong because Reggio coffee it is still today a historic and preserved place.

That machine, transported from Italy in the first decades of the last century, is still there to remind us that every dream is possible and that a life project, even a simple one, could become the greatest invention ever.

“Caffeotto”, the first Calabrian bergamot coffee

Leave a Comment