Review: Caffè Nero
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Bookshelves line the walls, freshly baked pastries and sandwiches are laid out in display cases, and the room is filled with dark coffee and soft light. Caffè Nero, an Italian-inspired coffee shop, opened last week in Brookline Village. It is located across from a Dunkin Donuts and a few doors down from a Starbucks. In passing, the café’s intrigue is a result of its welcoming lighting and huge bookshelf: an idiosyncrasy reminiscent of a European coffee shop.
Upon entering the café, with its friendly staff, homey flavors, and approachable ambiance, it would not be expected that the shop is a chain based in London with hundreds of locations around the world.
I carried my food and drink to a small two-person booth where there was a soft murmur of people talking, clicking their keyboards, reading or just sipping their coffees. People stayed noticeably longer than in other coffee chains, and there was more socializing in the large room, and even a few taking pictures of each other in the aesthetically-pleasing setting.
I had the white chocolate mocha ($4.10), which came with homemade whipped cream, and served in a mug – an aspect which differentiates the café from other coffee chains in the area.
The Mediterranean salad ($7.95, the same price as other salads) was a deconstructed plate of lemony hummus, fresh cucumbers, grape leaves, tabouli and triangles of pita bread that were surprisingly soft and fresh-tasting.
For dessert, the slice of ricotta cheesecake ($4.25) was disappointingly dry, but the small chocolate shaving vanilla cannoli bite ($1.50) was comparable to the famous Mike’s Pastry in the North End of Boston.
Mario Rivera has been an employee with the company for several months, and was moved to the Brookline Village location when it opened.
According to Rivera, Caffé Nero is not worried about the other coffee shop competition in close proximity due to Nero’s alternative environment.
“They don’t worry about the other coffee shops, as you can see it’s pretty busy in here. It’s just a different atmosphere,” Rivera said. “The food here is really good. It is made here daily, we have cooks who come here every morning,” Rivera said.
Ellen Role and Pam McCole were first-time customers at Caffè Nero.
McCole said that the seating arrangement is a positive attribute to the café.
“I like the seating here too, this is my third location because I got here first and was trying to save a seat, so it’s nice that there are different kinds of options in seating. And even though it is big, there are a lot of nooks and crannies so it doesn’t feel like we are in the middle of a big room,” McCole said.
According to Rivera, the Caffè Nero company is expanding at a rate of almost one store a month. Despite this widespread company growth, the café maintains a small-shop vibe which contributes to its overall appeal and popularity.
“It’s sort of rustic and a little industrial, and the lighting is good, not too bright, just bright enough, and I love the little window and nook. It’s very cozy,” Role said.