Since starting the blog, nearly a year ago one of the things I’ve most enjoyed, apart from the eating and drinking, is meeting some of the people behind these establishments. For those of you who’ve read the blog, you’ll know that one of the most memorable and enjoyable events I’ve attended involved the guys from North Star Micro Roasters. Since writing about their initial launch, I most recently attended their Latte Art Throwdown, where I watched a number of baristas represented at the event, not only from Leeds, but also places further afield. This made me think about the community that they’ve built up. Over the last few years the coffee scene has really become quite special in Leeds, with a few coffee shops really pioneering the art and setting the trend for others to not only follow, but also to help progress in its evolution.
After a little thought, I nervously contacted a number of people in the world of the independent coffee community in Leeds and Harrogate. I just wanted to meet the people behind the counter and find out more about this world, their ethos and passion for their work. So over the next few weeks or months, I’ll be profiling in my own way these coffee havens.
Alex Galantino, as a young boy from Milan, was brought up in the world of making espresso and being completely absorbed in the life and love of the coffee world. Upon moving to Leeds he opened La Bottega Milanese, after realising this part of the UK was lacking somewhere you could get a decent espresso, yet is common place in Milan. When talking to Alex, you can see the obvious passion that runs through his Milanese blood, he speaks with such love of the drink and the culture which he’s grown up in. Opening first in The Calls in 2009, Alex’s reputation grew, allowing him to open a larger premises in The Light in August 2011. Since then La Bottega, amongst others has been one of the pioneers of great independent coffee shops in Leeds and helped paved the way forward for others!!
The first late night Espresso Bar in The North was opened where Alex wanted to push the boundaries not just with great coffee, which of course was paramount, but also the experience. His background in graphic design is evident in the aesthetics of the shop, which delivers the true espresso bar experience, Milan style. The place is adaptable regardless of the time of day. From serving an espresso or cappuccino first thing in the morning, you could have a bite for lunch and then there’s always a late night aperitif to while away the hours in the evening.
Alex prides himself on their unique coffee La Classica, roasted in Yorkshire. The custom blend evolves in flavour depending on the coffees being used and has been the product of a painstakingly long process. This has culminated in coffee which possesses the flavour profile of an espresso, but also has a balance that helps to cut through the milk for other espresso based drinks.
Depending on where I park in town, determines where I get my coffee fix. I always enjoy a quick coffee and something yummy too, usually on my way to the cinema or just as I’m walking into town. At La Bottega there’s always a wonderful selection of Italian delicacies and delights to choose from. In particular the patisserie, which I always drool over when I walk to the counter; especially their pasticcini or the cannoli. Of course their hot food is tasty too. My ‘go to’ dishes are the meatballs and pasta or the lasagne. Their sandwiches aren’t boring either. Their fresh foccacia and ciabatta bread make great sandwiches filled with fresh Italian ingredients, such a Scamorza cheese, Mortadella and Spianata sausage, and they also serve hot Piadina – grilled Italian flat bread, a traditional regional food from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.
One of the things that La Bottega will be doing more of in 2014 is selling alcohol on the premises, now that they have a licence. So fine wines, Grappa, Amari, the Italian after dinner digestif and craft beers will be on sale too.
This is still one of my ‘go to’ places to get a decent coffee in Leeds, it has the feel of those Italian coffee establishments on the continent, but with a modern urban feel. There’s a good mix of busy people who need something quick and those who can while away a couple of hours, leisurely drinking and snacking on tasty food. Whichever bracket you fit in to, you get great service, great food and of course great coffee at La Bottega, whatever time of the day.La Bottega Milanese Unit A11A The Light The Headrow Leeds LS1 8TL 0113 2454242. Twitter: @bottegamilanese