Cortado: (n.) espresso with a small amount of steamed milk.

In late October, Cortado Coffee and Café opened on S. Clinton Street next to Airliner and Ewers Men’s Store. With signature espresso and Mediterranean flavor influence in their cuisine, Cortado appeals to a wide range of tastes, particularly tastes for traditional Italian drinks.

coffee, beer, wine
Emily Weaver

So I went on an adventure and brought a professional along to see if Cortado really is as unique and traditional as they say they are.

The professional? My lovely roommate. She was raised in a traditional Italian household. Her dad grew up southern Italy and immigrated to the United States at the age 11. Tradition runs deep in her family. Her father has owned Calabria Imports, an Italian deli restaurant, for almost 20 years. Traditional five course Italian meals hand crafted by her "Nonna" are also a reoccurring event. Safe to say, she knows what she is doing.

stout, wine, beer
Jacquelyn Roberto

Contrary to other coffee shops on campus, Cortado trades dark lighting and classical music for white walls, exposed pipes, natural lighting as well as pendant lighting and upbeat instrumental music in the background. 

The new espresso bar sticks to the standards of traditional Italian servings of coffee. For example, a shot of espresso is 30ml. My roommate tried this off the menu first.  

ice, coffee, tea, cocktail
Susan Ye

Her thoughts? “I liked the espresso. You could taste the traditional flavor and tell the beans were freshly ground on the spot. It was very strong, just like an espresso should be. It reminds me of my nonna’s,” she said.

Next on the list: Caramel Latte. She said, “They have their foam designs down that’s for sure! Also, the ratio of caramel to café was even, where not one was more powerful than the other.” 

mocha, milk, espresso, cappuccino, coffee
Emily Weaver

Lastly, she tried the Vanilla Latte. She commented that since she had already drank the caramel, she thought the vanilla wasn’t as flavorful but knew it was because she had the other one first.

Besides drinks, Cortado also serves sandwiches and salads infused with Mediterranean flavors. We sampled the Iowano that included la Quercia prosciutto and salami, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, basil, tomato, and balsamic vinaigrette.

cheese, bacon
Emily Weaver

"It was ah-mazing! The prosciutto and fresh mozzarella was just like how it is at my dad’s deli. I felt like I was back home.” 

Although the café makes you feel like you left Iowa City and are enjoying your espresso in Italy, it doesn’t fit into the traditional college student's budget. While some menu items are on the less expensive side, the sizes are true to the size you would get in Italy; breakfast items average around $3, sandwiches around $8, and salads $9. 

Final thoughts from our Italian expert: “Two thumbs up and I will bringing my dad next time he comes down to visit.”

Want to know more about the history of Cortado? Read Little Village’s story and interview with the owner.