Piccolo Cafè

Why is it that when cozy is used to describe apartments, savvy New Yorkers know it’s a synonym for claustrophobic, yet when the same adjective is applied to restaurants, locals come flocking? Piccolo Cafè, a sliver of an espresso-and-panini bar east of Union Square, shows you exactly why. How the two Italian owners pack so much good food, warmth and congeniality into such a tiny space is a Manhattan miracle. Most of their business is takeout, and if you do eat in, the utensils and plates are plastic, but with truffle egg sandwiches, homemade tiramisù, and daily specials like zucchini Parmesan on the menu, who could care? Coffee snobs will be pleased to know that the organic beans imported from Trieste can be had nowhere else in the U.S. Follow a generously packed panino with an affogato (the gelato is also homemade) and a strong cappuccino at lunchtime, and you’ll be on a food and a caffeine high all day—and thinking about a return visit.

sweet seats

There are just a dozen seats (all stools), so if you’re lucky enough to grab one, consider it sweet.

chew on this

Cafè Piccolo’s two owners got their start last Christmas in a booth at the Union Square holiday market, where their imported organic coffee was such a hit that an admiring customer offered them a permanent store. On Christmas eve, a snowy night, they literally rolled their espresso machine on a cart down 15th Street and in through the front door of their new home.


Mon.–Fri. 8 AM–8 PM; Sat.–Sun. 9:30 AM–6 PM

price range

$6 (ham and cheese panino) to $9 (truffle mushroom bruschetta)