Sbriga The Spirit of Roman Espresso in Melbourne
Sbriga is a cafe in the Melbourne CBD legal precinct caturing the Italian spirit of espresso. This is stand up Roman espresso style - something rarely seen in Melbourne.
Mario and the team have created a unique experience in a sea of cafes which impresses in terms of coffee, concept, cuisine and style. It strikes me that this cafe is engaging - where the customer is the focus. It is in no sense aloof. It's about giving 15 min of your day to receive top notch hospitality in the Italian tradition.
There is a distinct feeling of old Europe as you stand (yes, stand) next to the beautiful golden tones of the bar that runs around the main curved wall, whilst sipping on your coffee and savouring a delicious Italian treat.
Why standing room only? Sbriga (Italian for ‘hurry’) was inspired by the Italian tradition of drinking coffee and eating whilst standing at the bar.
“While I was visiting Rome recently, I fell in love with the experience of the local Espresso Bar”, owner Mario Simeone explains. “After only a few days I was convinced that Melbourne café lovers would appreciate this type of community meeting place. We’ve tried to design the Bar so that it feels like you’ve stumbled across a secret little café in an old part of Europe.”
Mario Simeone has a background in design and has done wonders with this small space. He and Andrew Scott-Young have combined in a creative collective that hits the high notes. Mario is an experienced hospitality identity having worked at The Provincial (under Max Fink, Eddie Crupi & Henry Chan) and The Standard Hotel (under Steve Miller) during the 90s.
Mario is passionate about Sbriga, "We are trying to offer Melbourne something a bit different – a true stand up espresso experience, pizza from breakfast to lunch & the Artichoke lampshades are made by me – just a few of the points of difference. As a designer myself (for the past 23 years!), I have tried to blend my passion for design into my passion for hospitality to create a holistic experience where the coffee, food, interior & hospitality is all of equal importance…"
Chic panelling and artichoke lampstands... People have walked past and then are drawn inside because of the chic design, says Mario.
Check out the breakfast pizza and the breakfast panini I had the pleasure to sample...
The sweets are sourced from a traditional Sicilian bakery located near Sbriga. Pistachio biscotti and the daisy mandarin cake (gluten free) are a couple of favourites and the pizza Lingue (roman style pizza for one, with the capricossa – smoked kassler ham, kalamata olives, artichokes, mushrooms and sweet baby bell capsicums stuffed with feta being one of the most popular) are delicious.
The panini are dosed with intense Italian flavours such as provolone cheese, prosciutto, artichokes, garlic infused grilled chicken and house made pesto. Mario has introduced traditional italian soups reminiscent of those he had when growing up, for those Melbourne winter days where a little bit of warmth is a must.
Allpress coffee is the order of the day. Stand up Roman is the go but there are a few stools in place for those that require a seat. I found the Allpress Supremo blend top notch. Allpress are on the rise and are installing a mother of a new roaster in Melbourne in November. Here at Sbriga I was keen not to go with my usual latte but grab a long mac Roman espresso style.
Check out the expensive bike mounted on the semi industrial ceiling...
This Nutella finger also hit a chord. What I love about Sbriga is the personal service. Mario seemed to know the names of many of the early morning customers and made his aim to do so. Like a cafe in Rome there's a community feel here at Sbriga.
Sbriga is an engaging, creative and impressive cafe in the CBD. Highly recommended.