Being from New York makes you a bit of a restaurant snob. There, I said it. It’s true. I walk by places with plastic table cloths and standard issue chairs and want to run away. I am not a fan of the diner. True, I’ve learnt that if I don’t go to the less-than-beautiful locations I will, most likely, miss out on quite a few good meals. It’s a constant battle and one that you will nearly always lose whilst dining in Italy.
It is this very snob battle that has kept me away from Vigoni — one of the historic Pavian pastry shops — all of these months. I won’t say it’s such a shame, but it is, at least, a half teaspoon of disappointment. There are several Vigoni locations in Pavia; one on Piazza Minerva, close to the train station and one on Strada Nuova right in front of the university.
In America Saturday might mean lining up at the diner, thinking about which variation of omlette you want and whether to pair it with home fries or sausage. In Britain it probably requires a cup of tea. France means a trip to the boulangerie and Italy means a slower-than-usual breakfast at the bar. Vigoni was one of the most crowded bars I’ve been to yet in Pavia, despite being the size of a small football field (this, once again, by my New York standards).
I walked in and sat straight down, like a true pro, I thought proudly to myself. There were an smattering of people sitting at the tables, but the bar was truly packed. I didn’t expect to be served any time soon, but was pleasantly surprised when a barista came over after only a couple of minutes to take my order. My brioche and cappuccino scuro arrived shortly after.
When the brioche arrived, I noted how small it looked and wondered if I’d survive to lunch without wanting to eat my hand. I hoped the cappuccino wouldn’t be extra milky to make up for the pastry’s dimiunitive size.Now, I’m not exactly what I would call a delicate eater. Despite being 5’2″, I’ll eagerly have that large slice of cake, I once at a whole pizza by myself (in Italy, mind you) and I can happily demolish a whole sandwich from No. 7 sub on my own. Still, I felt full after eating this brioche.
It was dense in the way that you think of when you hear ‘brioche.’ There was a pleasantly crunchy crust and that ITALIAN flavor (what is this flavor? does anyone have any guesses?). I liked it, one of my preferred brioche in Pavia, despite the fact that it was quite the filling little pastry.
My cappuccino was also good and definitely a touch darker than your normal one. There was a good head of foam and, while it did have that strange Italian coffee taste, it definitely wasn’t tinted with Robusta beans. In fact, I may have preferred my cappuccino to my brioche.
Despite the fact that Vigoni won’t be winning any awards for their decor, the pastries and coffee more than make up for the provincial atmosphere. If only senior citizen restaurants in New Jersey could serve food like this, I would have had a much less traumatizing childhood.
I should probably note that I went back the next weekend. That’s the highest praise I have for any Italian brioche thus far.
Do you choose restaurants based on atmosphere?