The hype is so real right now for Starbucks to unveil its second and third highly anticipated Reserve Roasteries stateside (in New York City and Chicago, to be exact) after the coffee chain opened its first-ever Reserve Roastery location in Seattle all the way back in 2014. With the NYC version of Starbucks' Willy Wonka coffee factory set to open its doors sometime in 2018, the Windy City is getting one beautiful and very delicious taste of what's to come. Starbucks' Princi Bakery in Chicago is so much more than just good coffee, and it's going to make you even more excited for the highly-anticipated Reserve Roasteries.
On Tuesday, Sept. 18, Princi Bakery opened in Chicago's West Loop neighborhood, becoming the second standalone Princi (after the OG location in Seattle, Washington) to set up shop in the United States. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Starbucks is an investor and global licensee of the boutique bakery, which first opened up in 1986 under the direction of Rocco Princi. In 2016, the coffee retailer first revealed that it was teaming up with the Milanese bakery — known for its fresh bread and pastery selection — and making it the exclusive food purveyor for its Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room locations. In November 2017, Starbucks' first U.S. Reserve Roastery in Seattle opened with full Princi fare to complement the Roastery's specialty small-batch brews. At that time, the caffeine megastar also revealed its plans to open standalone locations of Princi Bakeries around the United States in 2018 (it already has several in the U.K. and Milan), and the Chicago location is the very first. A New York City stand-alone Princi location is slated to open later in the fall.
On Thursday, Sept. 13, I got to step inside and sample a few of the bakery's offerings— all of which promise to bring the "Spirito Di Milano" to your city — ahead of the Chicago storefront's official opening on Tuesday, Sept. 18. More than 70 menu items, running the gamut of Roman-style pizza squares, fizzy Aperol Spritzes, and sinfully chocolatey Princina Tarts, are available for purchase. If the ingredients aren't locally sourced, they're imported from Italy (the 20-month aged prosciutto from Parma stood out), and bakery items are prepared fresh every day.
Starting from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, customers can stroll in and order everything from Italian-style Shakshuka (aka Eggs in Purgatory), a melt-in-your-mouth butter croissant, or oatmeal laced with Italian jam, berries, and granola, while lunchtime and dinner offerings include squares of Pizza Al Taglio covered in everything from roasted eggplant to Speck, and sandwiches that are simple but delicious.
With its ties to Starbucks, Starbucks' Reserve Princi Blend (which is currently only served at Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations) is offered at the Chicago store, along with a decaf Costa Rica Blend and a variety of espresso-based beverages. Starbucks' Reserve Princi Blend, which is described as "rich and carmelly sweet with deep notes of chocolate" on the menu, struck me as a smooth and balanced option.
If you're looking for a quick drink after work with coworkers or even a casual date spot, Princi also has a full bar with Italian specialty liquors like limoncello and Aperol, as well as white and red wines. Something tells me that this is going to become a go-to happy hour haunt for Chicagoans hanging up their ties after work.
With two future Reserve Roasteries featuring marble countertops, cocktails, ice cream, and even some augmented reality on the docket (at least, if the Milan location's ultra-cool features are any indication of what coffee lovers can expect at the Chicago and New York Roasteries), it's unsurprising that people are definitely clamoring for a hint of the magic. Let the countdown officially begin.