Fellini Coffee Captures Classic Italian Flavors in New Chelsea Outpost

Owner Franco Noriega’s two other locations, in Soho and the West Village, are already neighborhood faves.

| 07 Jun 2024 | 01:25

What makes a place cool? Well, whatever it is, Fellini’s, at 231 8th Avenue, has it. And not just among one particular demographic: I’ve seen grandmas with lap dogs, skaters with full sleeves, gaga-eyed couples on a not-first date, Chelsea boys with bulging biceps. So yes, basically everyone. And the place has been mobbed since day one. And I, she who never goes the same place twice, have in fact been thrice! So, what makes Fellini’s so special?

According to Wiktionary, Felliniesque “has come to mean a certain Italian sophistication yet earthiness, a fascination with the bizarre yet a love of simplicity all wrapped in a flamboyant Mediterranean approach to life and art.” Aside from the bizarre, Fellini’s does embody all of these characteristics. It somehow balances Italian bella figura with a distinct ease and approachability that is simply irresistible. Plus, their coffee is fantastic.

They use a proprietary blend of 40% India Robusta, 30% Brasilian, 20% Papua New Guinea and 10% Colombia for their espresso-based drinks. No drip here, although their Americano is an apt substitute and one, if not the best, cups of coffee in Chelsea. And that is a very high bar, what with such esteemed cafés as Joe’s and St. Kilda to rival.

The machine they use to churn out this exceptional java is La Marzocco, a valuable and historic contraption that is still made by hand in Florence. But according to owner Franco Noriega, who is half Italian, the quality that makes their coffee exceptional is “LOVE.”

That machine, however, sits gleaming atop the counter, to your left as you enter the tiny space, which is somehow chock full of Fellini memorabilia but doesn’t feel cluttered. Deep red and golds create a luxurious and sumptuous atmosphere, but the staff harbors no pretense. They are happy to indulge in conversation if you’re sitting alone at the bar and appear to be masters of multitasking both order preparation and attending to customers. Noriega attributed their winning affect to “a great environment and a beautiful space to work at, we also hire people based on great attitude.”

The café has reimagined the 350 square foot space which used to be the wine annex of Forager’s Market into a comfortable nook that seems much more spacious than its predecessor. There are a few small tables inside, with a nice secluded one in back for a slightly larger party. Four stools are available at the bar, but what has become perhaps possibly the most coveted seating are the quaint patio tables in front of the take-out window. As long as the weather allows, guests can relax on the sidewalk with food and drink good enough to distract from the fact that it is, in fact, Eighth Avenue... including all its foibles.

Speaking of which, and despite its name, Fellini Coffee is not limited to just “joe.” Inarguably the two hallmark beverages of Italy are coffee and wine, and the latter is not neglected. A menu of exclusive Italian wines is succinct but solid. They also offer some simple cocktails, like a classic Aperol Spritz or an Italian take on a mimosa with Martini Rossi and grapefruit juice.

All these drinks will rustle your appetite, and Fellini has your back for that, too. Even though a typical Italian breakfast is simply espresso or cappuccino and a biscotto or pastry, Fellini has more robust offerings such as a hot, cheesy spinach and organic egg frittata, or overnight oats with seasonal fruits. More substantial items tend to be more Italian, like the Cacio e Pepe Arancini, hot balls of rice stuffed with prosciutto and fontina, some luscious bruschetta dripping with savory tomato juices and garlicky olive oil, and two versions of pizzette: a margarita and one draped in prosciutto and pillowy mozzarella di bufala.

Federico Fellini’s most famous film was La Dolce Vita, so Fellini couldn’t leave you hanging without their own selection of dolci. Tiramisu, pistachio olive oil cake or a Fellini Rocher Cookie with gianduja pair seamlessly with a glass of Prosecco or perhaps another espresso (decaf is available). Or order a regular and stream a Fellini flick to continue your own New York version of La Dolce Vita into the night.

Fellini Coffee

CHELSEA 231 Eighth Avenue

WEST VILLAGE 174 Seventh Avenue South

SOHO 120 Thompson Street

NOMAD and NOLITA locations coming soon.