Gran Caffè Gambrinus Is Classic Italian Coffee Culture

The Gran Caffè Gambrinus is a historic Neapolitan coffeehouse in Italy that was established in 1860 and brings you back to an earlier time of coffee enjoyment.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus - Open Day and Night

Open Day and Night

When you are in Naples and you are looking for an espresso there are an almost limitless number of choices. The Neapolitan love for coffee is on display at my favorite bar in Naples, the Gran Caffè Gambrinus! This historic coffeehouse was established near Piazza del Plebiscito, and it brings you back to an earlier time. The Cafè became renowned all over Europe because of their confections, ice cream and coffee. This led to the approval by the royal family to be the ‘Supplier of the Royal House’, an honor bestowed by the House of Savoy only to the best suppliers of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus History

Bialetti Moka – Silver

The Moka Express is the original stovetop espresso maker and is the Italian way of preparing a delicious coffee that dates back to 1933.

You might be asking yourself: “Hey, Gambrinus isn’t an Italian name, what gives?”. The origin of the name Gambrinus certainly is not Neapolitan but his spirit is certainly alive and well in the caffè. It isn’t known for sure how the legend of Gambrinus originated. An early written account identifies Gambrinus as a mythical Germanic king about whom little is known. He is a European cultural legend who is celebrated as an icon of beer, brewing and joviality. He is typically depicted as a fat, bearded royal, holding a tankard or mug, and sometimes with a keg nearby. It doesn’t scream coffee but the legend does sound like a good time.

The Sergio Family

These excerpts were taken from their website and slightly edited:

“The café is run by the brothers Arturo and Antonio Sergio and they have turned Gran Caffè Gambrinus into a must-see when coming to Naples. Founded in 1860 and renovated later in 1890, Gran Caffè Gambrinus flourished until 1938 when it was closed because it was considered an antifascist hangout.”

Gran Caffè Gambrinus - A Master At Work

A Master At Work

However, in the early seventies Michele Sergio, together with his two sons Arturo and Antonio and his son-in-law Giuseppe Rosati, took over the running of the café with the dream of bringing it back to its past glory.

After years of hard work, long legal battles and sacrifices, the Sergio family has managed to bring Gambrinus to the glories of the past. Today, Gambrinus is enjoying a ‘second renaissance’. A popular stop for various Presidents of the Republic who visit Naples, including Mattarella, Gambrinus is bound to the Italian presidents like a sort of magic.

Italian Coffee Culture – Caffè Sospeso

Bialetti Moka – Brikka

This newer model Moka from Bialetti can produce the delicious crema that is usually missing from a stove-top espresso maker.

One of my favorite aspects of getting a coffee in Gran Caffè Gambrinus is the caffè sospeso, which means suspended coffee. A caffè sospeso is a cup of coffee paid for in advance by a patron and is an anonymous act of charity. Someone would come into a cafè and should they desire, pay the price of two coffees but receive and drink only one. As it works in Gambrinus, the receipt for the extra coffee is put into a large metal container near the door and a poor person could grab the receipt, or ask about it, and could be served a coffee for free.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus - For Someone Else

Buy Two and Get a Third For Someone Else

This concept was not invented here at Gambrinus, but it is the only place where it is so proudly on display. While it’s true that some coffee shops might use this concept as a way of Virtue Signaling to try to increase business, I don’t get that feeling when I come here.

The writer Luciano De Crescenzo wrote:

“When someone is happy in Naples, he pays for two coffees: one for himself, and another for someone else. It’s like offering a coffee to the rest of the world “

This concept is so popular that coming out of the economic downturn in 2008, a new tradition was created with the birth of the Day of Suspended Coffee (la Giornata del caffè sospeso) on December 10th. It was established by the Network of Suspended Coffee (Rete del caffè sospeso) with the aim of making this Neapolitan tradition known and promoting it in all Italian bars. 

UNESCO Petition For Italian Food Culture

Cultural heritage is very important in Italy. As of last year, Italy has 58 UNESCO World Heritage sites listed, the most in the world. That’s why is isn’t surprising that Gran Caffè Gambrinus in Naples launched a petition requesting that:

The “Neapolitan coffee ritual” be included in the list of intangible assets protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site because it is a fundamental and characterizing element of Neapolitan and Italian life and culture.

Unfortunately, as of today I still only see 58 on their list. I guess it doesn’t quite meet the standard of Pompei or the Amalfi coast, but I wouldn’t bet against them.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus Is A Unique Experience

Bialetti Moka – Mukka

This original design lets you make a delicious Cappuccino at home on the stove-top by whipping the milk to a soft foam in the Moka pot.

I hope I’ve been able to convince you that Gran Caffè Gambrinus is a definite “Must-See” on your next trip to Naples. If you are not quite sure, check out this great video from Conan O’Brien who visited Gambrinus during one of his travel specials to Italy. It always gives me a chuckle! For more information on Italian bars and culture, check out these interesting posts:

Gran Caffè Gambrinus - Coffee Culture

Drink The Water First and Enjoy The Flavor After

Similar Posts