Caff� Cento

Overall Rating: 6.900

Address: 801 Powell St.
Cross Street(s): California St., at the rear entrance of the Fairmont Hotel
City, State ZIP: San Francisco, CA 94108
Neighborhood: Nob Hill
Phone: 415.772.5032
Hours: M-Su 6:30am-6pm
Type of Establishment: Cafe
Cafe Rating: 7.20
Barista: 7
Savvy: 7
Ambiance: 8
Presentation: 7
Consistency: Consistent
Espresso Machine: La Cimbali
Coffee Rating: 6.60
Aroma: 7
Body: 6
Brightness: 6
Crema: 7
Flavor: 7
Taster's Correction: 0.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Illy
Cup Manufacturer: IPA
Price: $1.75
Last Update: 01/04/2010
First Reviewed: 10/19/2009
Notes: Coffee Sales; Outdoor Seating

This is a classically pretty caf� at the rear entrance of the elegant Fairmont Hotel, which overlooks the cable cars intersecting at California & Powell Sts. (There is limited outdoor sidewalk seating at caf� tables.) It seems closely modeled after many of the thematic and modern Illy-branded caf�s of Italy: modern red light fixtures over caf� tables, Italian music, and wait staff with accents. The tourists seem to go for the "authenticity" - even if the espresso doesn't come close to matching what you can get from an Illy caf� in Italy. They serve the usual Italian-themed light lunch fare, and there's a merchandising wall of Illy and Ghirardelli products so tourists can return bearing gifts. One nice touch is an old school, decorative brass Gaggia espresso machine on display at the hotel entrance from inside the caf�. Using a sparkling and shiny, Illy-branded two-group La Cimbali machine, they pull shots of espresso from the giant sealed Illy cans. It's the typical North American Illy flavor: soft, meek and based on mild pepper and spice. However, it does lack some of the woodiness you often find in Illy. It has a thin layer of lighter brown crema and is served in Illy designer IPA cups with no saucer.