Bar Italia, Soho
22 Frith St
020 7437 4520
by Gracie Spoon
Etched into Soho lore, Bar Italia is a teeny-tiny Italian frenzy, a shoebox of a cafe in which ham and soft toys hang from the ceiling and coffee is served 24 hours a day. It seems fitting that the clock at the entrance shows the wrong time because once that point is passed, a different pace of world begins.
At 8.30am on a Wednesday morning, these were the Bar Italia sounds:
• The synthetic wolf whistles and boinks of a persistent fruit machine.
• The conspiratorial hum of cabbies in leather jackets.
• Breakfast news barked out from a wall of television.
• The ‘NA na!’ bits from ‘You’re Just Too Good To Be True’. As performed by two black-tied waiters.
At 8.30am on a Wednesday morning, these were the Bar Italia people:
• Four Fire Brigade burlies dining al fresco.
• Two female geriatrics whose tracksuits, sunglasses and heavy pink lipstick scream ‘American!’.
• A man with terrible determination, mainlining aforementioned fruit machine.
• The cabbies, the plumbers, the suits, the tourists and the out-of-synch.
Well, breakfast didn’t taste too good. Dry, possibly stale. But this seems to miss the point.
It’s 8.55am at work. The lights are still off, nothing is happening and I am reassured of the responsible order of things. But for the rest of the morning, Bar Italia’s seedy exuberance and its much-praised coffee (as dizzy-strong as its atmosphere) stick with me, pulling my hair and distracting my respectable paperwork.