Sant’Eustachio Il Caffè is a traditional Italian coffee shop located in the heart of Rome. Founded in 1938, the shop has remained unchanged for over 80 years, preserving its original atmosphere and design. The walls are adorned with black-and-white photos of decades past, adding to the nostalgia of the space. The menu has also remained unchanged since its inception, with the only option being a classic Italian espresso.
The brand’s iconic yellow color palette and stag with a cross between its horns logo is immediately recognizable to any Roman. The coffee itself is rich and creamy, made from 100% premium Arabica beans and sweetened with sugar, unless requested otherwise. The baristas use secret recipes and their coffee machines are hidden behind aluminum plates to maintain the mystery.
In recent years, Sant’Eustachio has expanded its offering, with packaged blends, tins, and coffee capsules available for purchase and delivery. Eric Favre, the inventor of the Nespresso coffee maker, is said to have had the idea for it while drinking a coffee at Sant’Eustachio.
For a more modern and design-forward experience, visitors can also check out Emporio Sant’Eustachio, the bar’s younger sibling located in Via della Maddalena near the Pantheon. Both locations offer the same great coffee, but with a different atmosphere.
At first glance, the scene isn’t much different from other bars in Rome. Except the place is: Caffè Sant’Eustachio is the Eternal City’s most iconic caffè (coffee shop). Stopping for a cup here is like visiting a time-honoured vineyard in Chianti: an experience – and the best way to witness Italian excellence first-hand.
“It’s a destination,” says Raimondo Ricci, who co-owns the bar with his brother, as we sit down over coffee (obviously). “Not just somewhere you come for a quick shot of caffeine, but a place that’s both steeped in the city’s history and centred around serving you the best cup of coffee you might have ever had.”
Established in 1938 – though the venue already existed in the 18th century, when it was simply called ‘Caffè e Latte’ (‘Coffee and Milk’), Ricci tells us – Sant’Eustachio has indeed long been tied to Rome’s cultural and social fabric.
“Back in the days, this was the heart of the city,” Ricci says. “There were theatres and cinemas nearby, offices and governmental buildings. The first university was just around the corner, as was – and still is today – Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Senate. Sant’Eustachio was at the centre of it all.”
Becoming an institution of sorts didn’t take long. From actors to politicians, anyone who was anyone would pop by Sant’Eustachio for an espresso – all the more so after 1948, when the bar started roasting its own beans (in 1999, when Ricci and his brother took over the business, Sant’Eustachio began importing directly from small cooperatives in Brazil, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, and the islands of St. Elena and the Galapagos, to further ensure quality control).
The cafe’s interiors also contributed to its ‘It’ status. “While most bars back then used to be built in wood, Sant’Eustachio had curved, white masonry walls,” Ricci says. “It was very innovative, which made it trendy. For a lot of people, it was a place to see and be seen.”