It's very rare that you'll find me in Leichhardt; a suburb reknowned for its Italian eateries and cafes (and might I add, cake shops). Don't get me wrong, I absolutely adore the Italian culture and this is probably the best place in Sydney where you can experience the Italian hospitality without having to go to Italy per say. In the end, it all boils down to the fact that it's really quite out of the way for me and given I'm close to being the worst driver in the world, I wouldn't dare to take the car out because there would be just no way I'd be able to park the car (as embarrassing as it sounds). The other thing is that I'm absolutely hopeless at reading maps so put those together, I'm really a bit of a disaster so I'm told.
A number of people had been urging me to visit Bar Italia for their coffee and it wasn't till a couple of days ago that I finally made the trip out with Amy to see what it was all about. The Sydney Coffee Guide hadn't given them a particularly good review; a mere 3.5 bean rating out of 5; and yet I've had numerous people tell me it's the best and most authentic coffee in Sydney. It was a discrepancy which I was extremely eager to sort out (hence why this post comes late because I ended up doing a bit more research to get things clear).
According to my boss (who's half Italian), Bar Italia was one of your first coffee shops in Sydney that actually served a proper Italian expresso. As a result, they've built themselves a strong reputation for good coffee and a fellowship of drinkers who go there seeking only the best coffee. For these same reasons, Bar Italia only serves coffee on full-cream milk (you'll notice a 'No skim, No soy, No Light Milk' sign displayed near the coffee machine) and an almost distinctive lack of service on behalf of the staff because there is so much business passing through. I'm not too sure if this is intentional or not but I was quite taken aback at how curt and unfriendly the staff there were. My boss, however assures me that this is pretty much standard all year round. Apparently the shop has also the reputation of the worst customer service. It's a shame really; the perfect cup of coffee should be completed with good customer service.
Aside from coffee, we decided to have lunch there as well. Big thumbs up from me; both the Italian Foccacia and the pasta were delicious! They actually have quite an extensive menu on offer; it's actually worthwhile to head back. Food service was extremely prompt which was good given that it's quite hot sitting inside. (While we were there, the fans weren't on and neither was the air con and annoyingly we had this one big fly loom ominously above our heads.) In a way, they place is like your Hong Kong Cafe equivalent. Don't expect much service or attention but do expect a good feed. And did I mention, a few of the boutiques in Leichhardt are quite good for shopping :D