This morning, Starbucks opened a new wing to its Reserve Roastery in Seattle. We've always known Roastery locations are more like coffee amusement parks than typical outposts of the chain, where a slew of fancier drinks and menu items are available, but the latest offerings are on a whole new level. Princi, a new bakery and café inside the Roastery, offers customers breads, pizza, pastries, salads, and even cocktails from a menu created by an Italian baker named Rocco Princi, who has been in the business for over three decades. Everything from the items served to the layout of the new space is meant to emulate the experience you might have if you lived in Italy and popped by your local bakery for cornetti in the morning or an aperitivo after work.
Last week, we were invited to visit Princi inside Starbucks' Seattle Reserve Roastry before its official opening to taste the menu items. Although the coffee chain is already known for its breakfast sandwiches and cake pops, the dishes available in this new addition go way beyond what we have come to expect from our typical quick Starbucks visits.
At Princi, all the food is prepared on-site, which is a big first for Starbucks. Not only that, a team of experienced chefs and master bakers begin the baking at 3 a.m. every morning. In the space, the ovens act as a stage, and customers can watch the food prep as if it were a show. In total, Princi serves over 104 items, most of which highlight ingredients sourced from Italy.
Princi's new space inside the Seattle Roastery is open and inviting, which is good because there's no menu boards to read from. Instead, customers are encouraged to ask the bakers, chefs, and commessas questions about the dishes that appeal to them. While that may sound intimidating to the introverts among us, it does turn your usual boring meal break into a learning experience.
During out visit to Princi, we didn't taste-taste all 104 menu items, but it felt like we came close. First, we broke bread with Rocco Princi himself, tasting the Focaccia, Cerali Cibatta, and the signature Princi Loaf. The Seattle-based shop sells fresh bread by the loaf and half loaf and comes complete with an in-house bread slicer.
Next, we sampled a few of the breakfast offerings, Cornettis and Cornettis al lampone. Cornettis are the Italian version of a croissant, and Princi's were like light buttery clouds. In addition to the Cornettis, Princi also offers granola, Greek yogurt, steel-cut oats, baked eggs in spicy tomato or porcini sauce, and cornetti breakfast sandwiches for that very important first meal of the day.
From there, we moved to pizza. Yes, Starbucks Roastery locations will now serve freshly made pizzas. All of Princi's pizzas are made on a focaccia bread base with a pomodoro sauce, which includes a special oregano that Rocco Princi himself for to find just the right flavor profile. The Pizza Verdura Griglia, with its colorful array of roasted eggplant and peppers, was a real standout. In addition to pizza, the lunch selection, or Pranzo, includes salads, soups, and sandwiches served on focaccia.
One of the most significant differences between this Starbucks-backed bakery and café and a traditional Starbucks store is that Princi's serves cocktails, beer, and wine. Customers can stop by after work for aperitivos small plates like the salty and satisfying Olive Sfilantini Pistaccio Mortadella.
Last but obviously not least, we tried a few of Princi's handmade desserts. Among them was an extremely rich chocolate torte called Princina, which comes complete with a gorgeous glossy finish and Tiramisu dusted with a generous amount of very strong espresso powder. The treats were a vast departure from the pumpkin bread you might be used to grabbing with your go-to coffee order.
Princi is set to become the exclusive food option at all new Starbucks Reserve Roastery locations. Shanghai's Roastery will have Princi when it opens in December. The Roasteries opening in Milan, New York, and Tokyo in 2018 and in Chicago in 2019 will also include Princi locations. In addition to those locations, Starbucks plans to open standalone Princis in 2018 as well. Customers in Seattle will be the first to try what may become a dining staple that's as ubiquitous as Starbucks is now, and to those folk, we say buon appetito.