Il Cantuccio is a quiet little bakery and café on Christopher Street in the West Village. It’s a great morning or afternoon spot for the weekends, or a place to get a quick bite to eat before or after work. The food choices mix a little bit of old world Italy with the neighborhoods of Manhattan . An inviting and attentive staff greets you at the door, pleasant music plays in the background, café tables and stools line the wall, and a small patio awaits you out back. Patrons talk in various languages at the tables and even the staff themselves carry on in Italian.
The cafe offers customers a mix of breads, sandwiches, pizza, and biscotti, along with an assortment of coffees and freshly squeezed orange juice. On either Schiacciatta, Bozzetta, or Filone breads, try The Firenze, a sandwich made of Prosciutto Crudo and mozzarella cheese, $5.40. Add organic tomatoes to it and it’s now called The Manhattan, $5.80. Get a little more neighborhood specific with your sandwich selection and go for The Tribeca, made with Prosciutto di Parma, $4.90.
If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, try the freshly made focaccia breads. Ingredients baked inside and out include calamata olives, tomatoes, potatoes, or ciccioli, which is a delicious Italian meat. I decided on the olive and tomato focaccia, chewy and crunchy in all the right places for only $2.70 a slice. I also ordered a café Americano, but what made this typical beverage choice a little more special, was a sample of two homemade biscotti cookies, prune and chocolate, accompanying it. It was a clever way for the owners to rope me into buying some, but I was quite content with the nibble I received, satisfying my craving for sweet to that little bit of salty I had just eaten in the bread.
But if biscotti is your thing and you do want to buy some, this is the place for it. It’s made onsite daily with the same recipe they’ve been using since 1940 back in Italy. Be prepared to spend some money though, because it isn’t cheap. The choices include biscotti with figs, almonds, prunes, chocolate, or apricots. For the kids, try the pane e nutella, jam, or chocolate and add a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice for their Vitamin C.
Il Cantuccio in some ways is just another typical upscale bakery in one of the many neighborhoods of New York City. What sets it apart, however, are the bits and pieces of authentic old world charm… shouts of Italian here and there, the family owners eating their food right in front of you, and even a visit from babbo! (I looked the meaning of babbo up and discovered it means dad in Italian.)
As I was getting ready to leave, I decided that I really couldn’t resist buying some of the homemade biscotti. I guess their marketing tactic worked. And as I was exiting the front door, of course I yelled CHOW!