When in Rome, Italians like to enjoy their espresso at a coffee bar – no fuss, just standing. When in Melbourne, CBD customers like to do the same thing.
“It’s been a 20-year vision to establish a café with my older brother. Coming from an Italian background, and Melbourne having such a strong Italian community, I wondered why there wasn’t much attention to stand-up espresso bars in the city,” says Sbriga Espresso Bar Director Mario Simeone.
On a family holiday to Rome a few years ago, Mario and his brother Severino explored the city’s famous monuments and its historical coffee culture. “This was the impetus for our coffee bar,” says Mario.
Upon their return, the brothers spent an intense six months scouting the right location and setting up their espresso bar in the west corner of Melbourne’s CBD. “The demographic is very much white-collar workers, barristers, and solicitors, however we felt the coffee and food offerings for that particular clientele was very underserviced,” says Mario. “We found a small venue that ticked all the boxes and established Sbriga as a contemporary interpretation of an Italian stand-up bar.”
The small fit-out features traditional, Italian-inspired design and contemporary features including wood-panelled walls, bamboo bench tops, bar stools, and a distinctive artichoke-shaped lampshade, designed and created by Mario, an industrial designer by trade.
“Sbriga is all about attention to detail, friendly service, and a non-intimidating approach – it’s also our approach to serving beautiful coffee,” says Mario. “The stand-up bar has been received well. It encourages engagement between customers. In the morning we have construction workers standing side by side with lawyers.”
Sbriga serves Allpress’ Supremo blend on its La Marzocco Linea three-group machine. The blend contains a combination of Brazil, Papua New Guinea, and Colombia beans. “It’s a bold, strong blend with a slightly malty, sweet chocolate flavour that’s great for milk-based and black coffees,” says Mario.
A range of alternating single origin coffees from Allpress are also available. To accompany the Italian-style coffee is a menu of sweets, savoury items and fresh salads. “Like traditional espresso bars, it’s not just about the coffee. We serve our homemade pizza, paninis, frittatas, soups, and salads. Three nights a week we also serve Aperitivo drinks and food. It’s like the café name suggests – tasty, quick and easy food. The best part about the coffee industry is the engagement we have with our customers, many of whom have become loyal friends,” says Mario.