Primo Passo Coffee Co.
This past weekend, I was with the person who started it all: my father. The espresso addiction! My life! So, the pressure was on (literally, pressure in these espresso machines) to show him the best coffee around LA. Although it has taken me a whole lot of time and failure to realize it, I began to see that drinking espresso, both good and bad, was not simply for the taste. Considering how many awful espressos I have tasted in my life, theres a great amount of fun in finding the rare good ones. And once you find those gems, that must mean the coffee beans and barista will always be good, right? The same bean, the same barista, the same flavor, right? Wrong. Even if you stay at the same coffee shop all afternoon and have three or four espressos, even from the same barista, they will all probably taste completely different. I hadn't realized until this past weekend that the main excitement in trying espresso is that you don't know the outcome until you see it, smell it, and drink up. I have had a lot of these recent disappointments at some of my favorite places in LA, so I figured I'd give a whole new place a shot with my father. That's what brought me to Primo Passo Coffee Company on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. I immediately sized up the place as having potential. The variable pressure machines, the random mustache sticker on the wall, the tastefully decorated, well-lit interior--it all pointed to good espresso. And my calculation was correct! This time, at least. The well-hidden Stumptown beans behind their Primo Passo Coffee brand turned out quite well. I have been having a lot of Stumptown Hairbender espresso recently, and it has generally resulted in something good. At Primo Passo, my espresso yielded flavors both sweet and nutty, although the nuttiness probably came from my father's "Nutter Butter" cookie I kept stealing bites from. Overall, Primo Passo passes my test of a good coffee shop. And although every time I go there the espresso will be different, it has the basic equation of a quality coffee shop. If you are in the Santa Monica area and want something other than the "triple-ristretto" Italian taste of Caffe Luxxe coffee that seems to dominate this area, I recommend Primo Passo. Even if you just want to see a beautifully decorated, high-ceiling coffee shop or a large picture of a man with a beard down past his waist, check this place out.
Recommend: Come here after a morning at the beach for an afternoon coffee and mozy around Montana Avenue. It has a unique small-town feel on this street.
Note: NO Wi-Fi, lots of room to sit, outdoor seating, and the works. Parking is usually not that hard to find on the street.
Vibe: Coffee connoisseur, wealthy crowd, small-town feel.
Espresso Rating: 8/10
Overall Rating: 8.5/10
Hours: Mon-Sat 6:30 am-6:30 pm, Sun 6:30 am-6 pm
Location: 702 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA