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Even an authentic Italian espresso bar in Paris struggles for recognition; Parisian coffee roasters seem to be allergic to modern-day Italian bars. They criticise the use of cheap Robusta beans instead of aromatic Arabia as they produce a bitter espresso that invariably has to be ruined by adding sugar, they criticise the use of pasteurised milk rather than fresh – though at least everyone agrees the Italians still make the best espresso machines.
Fortunately there’s Da Zavola, a contemporary café of the sort the Italians term a gastronomia, where you can taste gourmet specialities and wines from across Italy and get an outstanding espresso. Luigi Stella is Sicilian, and opened Da Zavola three years ago in a gentrified backstreet of the Latin Quarter. Although he worked for the coffee giant Illy, Luigi wanted something special for his bar, and after trying local roasters in his native Sicily, finally found the quality he wanted here in Paris itself, at Café Coutume. Although they serve only one house brand at Da Zavola, the mix of beans is changed a couple of times a month. Then there is the espresso machine itself, a shining Victoria Arduino, the only one in use in Paris. And finally, the barista, Gugliermo Candiano, puts all his Sicilian charm into serving his faithful customers. The bar is open nonstop all day, serving everything from prosciutto crudo and mozzarella to grilled aubergines and toasted foccacia, pasta at lunch and dinner and aperitivi in the early evening. And for the perfect treat after cannoli, a traditional Sicilian dessert, order a marocchino, a lethal glass of syrupy liquid chocolate topped off with an espresso and a drop of frothy milk.