Full disclosure: I have spent a lot of time traveling in Italy. I have high standards for coffee and gelato. I also appreciate the pageantry of a proper Italian bar: the coffee making, the bottled soda selection, the ready availability of prosecco, and the counter culture – the interaction of patrons and staff at the bar.
When I step into Gran Caffe L’Aquila I feel like I am in Rome. The presence of well dressed men. The humming of the espresso machine. The smells from the kitchen. The embarrassment of riches in the cold case and at the gelato counter. Paradiso.
Of course this is much more than a Italian-style bar. And that is where the authenticity wanes, but in good ways. You can get un bel caffe (perfect coffee) in the morning, pastilles and baci for your purse, a sandwich at lunch time, and an aperitivo for happy hour. (Do check out their happy hour deals!)
But you can also get a proper meal with good service in their dining room upstairs. Savory small plates or seafood. Enjoy multiple courses. This is an ambitious restaurant in addition to being a truly grand, marble and glass caffe. And the gelato is world class, possibly the best in Philadelphia. I highly recommend the pistachio.