top of page

Gina Lollabrigida brings the "Espresso Bar" to London

Yes, she's still alive.

And yeah, when she was Europe's hottest new starlet, was credited with bringing some Continental Sophistication (Sexiness) to London, with the very first "espresso bar."

And that, in turn, gave us the Beatles.

We may be on the downhill side of the second wave of coffee being "cool," now that McDonalds has the McCafe, but when Hip was still in it's creation phase, one of the Postwar icons of European Pop Culture, used some of the cash she was earning from displaying her talents on big screens across the globe, to open the Moka Bar in Soho, in 1953.

Or it was opened by an Italian dental supply salesman named Pino Riservato, who had a relative who worked at Gaggia, and Lollabrigida's stewardship was either a publicity stunt, or an urban legend. It seems there is some historic dispute.

So we're going with Gina for now.

The Moka Bar was the first place in London to feature the new and insanely cool Gaggia lever espresso machine. And it was an overnight sensation.

The Moka Bar was reportedly soon serving a thousand espressos a day, and 100,000 cappuccinos a year (thanks to the Gaggia's atmospheric blasts of steam and relentless gurgling) and it set off an explosion of imitators, with some 500 espresso bars in London alone, by 1960.

The "2 i's" coffee bar became known as the birthplace of British rock n roll, with it's famous downstairs music venue.

Another legendary spot, the Le Macabre, featured candles on skulls, devil mask wall sconces with red light bulb "eyes," and a table made out of a coffin.

With the Baby Boom underway, and lots of kids too young to drink, but with too much energy and Future to stay home, espresso bars soon became the hub of the emerging Post War youth scene in London.

They were places even a teenager could hang out til late at night, pretending to be part of the smart set, listening to the latest music on jukeboxes, or increasingly, watching it happen live with small groups of new young musicians crammed into basements.

A couple of youngsters named John Lennon and Paul McCartney, inspired by the burgeoning espresso bar "skiffle music" scene, formed their own band.

What small clubs in 20s/30s NYC were to the future of Jazz, coffee bars in Soho turned out to be for the future of British Pop.

So did the Beatles change Post War culture around the Earth?

Or did Gina?

(Or the inspired dental salesman, Pino Reservato?)

Perhaps what really changed the world, was the Gaggia lever espresso machine.


Recent Posts

Follow Us

  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon
bottom of page