You’ll find the entrance to the narrow espresso bar called Zibetto around the corner from Le Parker Meridien in that hotel-cluttered spot of Manhattan just south of Central Park. You might happen to stop here if you wanted a cup of coffee, but might not think to head there if you were looking for one of the more unique and surprisingly decent shots of espresso in Manhattan. I won’t sing the praises too highly of Zibetto’s Attibassi coffee (unlikely to be fresh since it comes from Bologna, Italy), but the guiding hand of a skilled barista compensates.
I should add that I never would have found Zibetto on my New York coffee tour had it not been for my tour guide. I’m glad I did, though, since it gave me a chance to visit an Italian coffee bar on this side of the Atlantic. Mostly what I appreciate about Zibetto is the atmosphere. The slick, white, marble and tile, standing-room-only bar set the tone, but the soul of the place is molded by its patrons. Zibetto serves an eclectic mix of tourists from around the globe, die-hard regulars who the barista knew by name and regular order, and locals using the spot to catch up or conduct business (someone was getting their job review right next to me – seems like a private office might have been more appropriate).
Zibetto has a limited menu consisting of Italian cold drinks, a selection of Italian sweet and savory snacks and espresso based beverages. The barista pulls the latter from their 3-group La Spaziale S5 and grinds the coffee, several shots at a time, which is acceptable (but not ideal) given the speed at which he emptied the hopper. Overall, I was impressed with this barista’s skills (grinding aside). Alone, he was able to rapidly serve a sizable crowd – perhaps there’s a lesson or two here for any of several bay area cafes known for their lines (you know the ones).
The espresso that I ordered – a true single – was neatly poured and exhibited a beautiful reddish crema. It was smooth and gentle going down with some tobacco and chocolate notes, a hint of acidity and a pleasant medium body. While well-made, and exhibiting no abrasive qualities, it also lacked any real complexity or intensity; it was solidly good without a real lasting impression. There was no brewed coffee and I can only assume the barista would make an Americano if requested. I was unfortunately too caffeinated to try out their milk-based drinks.
While I would like to see what this operation could do with better, fresher coffee, Zibetto exhibits a kind of professional, and yet unpretentious skilled to their coffee that I found both refreshing and welcoming. While it’s no grand espresso bar, Zibetto is a quality, under the radar, coffee location in a part of town otherwise mostly lacking.