I started lingering at Caffe Reggio while an undergraduate. Their panini and espresso appealed to my precious nineteen year old self, looking for that dark and quiet sense of another world as angsty college kids are often looking for. Being too manic to decide on any one path (hello, the rest of my life,) I didn't study abroad in college. But I did have Cafe Reggio, which felt like my version of the european bohemian spot, like an Italian cafe exciting to the life of a lowly suburban teenager.
Caffe Reggio opened in 1927 by Italian immigrants, becoming a feature in New York City's cultural scene ever since. It's even a star in movies like The Godfather and Inside Llewelyn Davis. I enjoy the roped off school of Caravaggio painting hanging on the wall, like you've just happened into a bit of a derelict art museum on some side street in Florence. The original espresso machine, large and luminous, is also perched on the side watching as you read and sip a latte.
A cast of characters are always present inside: tourists, locals, college kids, that one dude reading a philosophy book alone, couples on dates, Americans sort of confused as to what New York City is, and everyone in-between.
Over the years I've eaten almost everything off their menu. I like it best though when I order a glass of wine, or a tea, or an espresso, but just with dessert. It's one of the few places I can count on to have chocolate mousse readily available for a leisurely evening.
Caffe Reggio 119 MacDougal St., New York, NY10012