I recognized the Lavazza name from the gold, red, or blue cans of espresso sold at my local supermarket. Lavazza is a family business founded in Italy in 1895. Lavazza currently has 5 cafes in the U.S, all of which are in Chicago, but this is the first Espression by Lavazza. Located in the elegant Drake Hotel at the north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, Espression by Lavazza is a wonderful place to relax and revive with hot or cold espresso drinks, hot chocolates, delicious sandwiches and salads, and amazing sweets.
The prize-winning design of the room and furnishings is ultra-modern Italian, yet very comfortable. On the red walls are huge photographs by David LaChapelle, Eugenio Recuenco, Annie Leibovitz and more, taken from the annual Lavazza calendars. Customers sit at a counter where they can watch the preparation of espresso drinks and frozen treats, or at tables served by pleasant, knowledgeable staff. The morning frittata paninis, sandwiches, salads, and the fabulous treats are made to order, and the pastries are baked on site daily.
Sitting on a red “smiley” chair, I began with a classic espresso, smooth and delicious, made in the style of Rome (more robusta than Arabica beans, I learned). I enjoyed a Duetto Agrodolce, two minibaguettes with Prosciutto di Parma, mozzarella, and onion chutney; I also liked the Salmone Caprese, asparagus surrounded by cream and mascarpone cheeses and wrapped in smoked salmon. I tasted a delicious bite of a Prosciutto e brie panino – Prosciutto, brie and fig conserve. I’m looking forward to ordering one of the fresh, beautiful salads. One is made with fruit ( Insalata de frutta e Parmigiano) and a passion fruit dressing created for Espression by chef Ferran Adrià of the famous El Bulli restaurant in Spain. A second intriguing salad, Insalata Bresaola, is made with arugula, the thinnest slices of bresaola (air-cured beef) and enormous shavings of Parmesan. I tried gelati, made daily for Espression. They are so colorful I wanted a little of each but settled for intense frutti di bosco (wild berry) and my favorite, nocciolato (hazelnut).
I was invited to try several coffee creations – “Espression Innovations.” Lavazza again partnered with Ferran Adrià, who created the trademarked Espesso, frozen espresso and milk foams blasted side by side into a cup to eat with a spoon, not drink. This “innovation” expands as you devour it – the solid yet light, airy texture is amazing, the taste intense but delicate espresso. Other treats include Espessones - espresso topped with various light mousses and served in porcelain cups or flared glasses so one can see all the layers.
Enjoy Espression by Lavazza at 140 E. Walton Place, Chicago.
Hours – 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Do go to www.lavazza.com and download your own copy of the 2009 Lavazza calendar!
Published on Nov 20, 2008