Tuesday, December 3, 2013

La Fiorentina (Northampton, MA)

I have discussed a few of the cafes in Northampton before, including recent posts on The Roost and The Foundry, but nothing comes close to the quality of La Fiorentina.  With three locations now (the others are in Springfield and the newly opened East Longmeadow shop), La Fiorentina presents perfect coffee, delicious pastries, ice cream and other sweets.  Most items are, of course, Italian, though they have other pastries, including my personal favorite croissant.  While I cannot speak to the authenticity of their coffees and sweets, having never been to Italy, I suspect that much of what they offer is true to its heritage, as they seem to have an attention to detail and quality that makes me think that anything less than doing things exactly right would not be acceptable.

"Banana" Marzipan; the cell phone camera does not do the beauty of it justice
I have been going to La Fiorentina since I was a little kid, getting hot chocolate, made with real steamed milk, which is really just so much better than the stuff you get elsewhere, and of course, the greatest treat of all, real marzipan.  Made with almond paste and a lot of sugar, it is slightly sticky, very sweet, and just all in all delicious; as a kid it was my favorite, and today it is a treat that I cannot resist every time I find myself on Armory St.  The marzipan is hand painted and absolutely beautiful, with bright, vibrant colors, shaped and colored to resemble various fruits and objects.  I got a couple of the "banana" treats today, which were so perfectly painted that they looked just like miniature versions of the real thing.  I am sorry to say that my new phone's camera, while pretty good, did not properly capture the colors, because these little treats really are a work of art.  If you have never had marzipan and live or work in the Northampton area, you really need to stop in and try some; if you have tried it and like it, La Fiorentina's will take that to another level.

Beyond the marzipan, they have great fruit tarts, croissant, cheesecake that is to die for, and a lot of really good Italian desserts, including the classic cannoli.  All of their cakes that I have tried are tremendous, and I look forward to trying more, despite my general aversion to very sweet desserts, because they just do such an incredibly good job with all of their food.

The coffee is, as I said, spectacular; it being a rather warm day today (47 degrees is warm in December), I went for an iced latte, and as I took my first long sip of it, all I could think was "if everyone tried this, no one would drink flavored coffee."  The espresso is amazing, rich and flavorful, perfectly roasted, and the milk mixes perfectly with just the right ratio to the coffee.  Their regular coffee is great as well; when I had a few trainings last year in Northampton, their hot coffee was the perfect thing to warm me, and as I struggled to stay awake through 24 hours of boring-ness over three days it kept me awake.  After drinking La Fiorentina coffee I cannot drink Dunkin Donuts' swill for at least a week.

All in all,  I cannot recommend La Fiorentina highly enough, and they are truly my favorite cafe in not just Northampton, but anywhere.  If anyone has a place they think could challenge it, please let me know, but it is a long shot that I will find somewhere that I love more.  FYI, though, their hours suck, not opening until 9am Sunday through Friday, and 8am on Saturday.  I want coffee at 6am, dammit!


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