Milk and Roses, one of the newest editions to the Manhattan Avenue strip, very unofficially opened its doors a little over a month ago, on April 22, and since then has been serving the Greenpoint community more regularly. It would be almost impossible to step foot inside Milk and Roses without being pleasantly greeted by owner Tommaso Mazzoni, who works around the clock. Mazzoni plays an instrumental role in casting the vibe of Milk and Roses as his laissez-faire attitude reflects the calm atmosphere he is trying to create. Replete with a piano and loads of glorious bookshelves housing philosophy and poetry classics (and plenty more favorites from a variety of genres), Milk and Roses is the perfect place to come and share a linzer tart cookie with a friend, or to sip a cappuccino solo while working on your laptop.
Since its opening Milk and Roses has created quite a buzz for itself. Is it a coffee shop, or a bar? When will they be getting their liquor license? And, isn’t it a bit close to veteran Champion Coffee? In fact, it is a coffee shop and a soon-to-be wine bar, as well, once their liquor license comes through. If all goes according to plan, that should happen by the end of June, and along with wine and beer will come an extended menu and hours. And yes, it is close to Champion—right next door, in fact—but this doesn’t seem to be a problem for either party.
When asked whether or not it’s ethical to open up shop so close to a similar operation Mazzoni says in his thick Italian accent and with a smile on his face, “I think life is competition. That’s all I’ll say.” Perhaps the coffee shop war is more a battle of the patrons rather than the workers themselves. Jess Barbagallo of Champion Coffee states in a serene manner, “I suppose there is a competition because we’re next door to each other doing the same thing. We both have coffee; we both have sandwich boards announcing that we have coffee. But I think that’s almost just as much a performance for the community as it is whatever is actually happening.”
Before opening up Milk and Roses, Mazzoni managed Cacio e Pepe, an Italian restaurant in the East Village, for a couple of years. Mazzoni wanted to start his own place and “do things [his] way.” Once he noticed the “for rent” sign, the deal only got sweeter. “I just kept what I found. And what I found was beyond my expectation. The ceiling is original, the walls are original,” Mazzoni says. To increase the authenticity he added a ninety-year-old piano, an antique couch from the 1870s, his entire book collection and hundreds more that he purchased to fill the many vast shelves Milk and Roses houses.
The espresso at Milk and Roses is strong enough to keep you awake for hours, and the cornetti (Italy’s version of the croissant), buttery to perfection. Mazzoni takes Italian seriously. The pastries at Milk and Roses come from Gian Piero Bakery in Astoria—where the owners are from the same region in Italy as Mazzoni is, Basilicata—and the coffee is Miscela d’Oro from Messina, Sicily. The menu is filled with carni (meat), formaggi (cheese), pane (bread), and insalate (salad), and once alcohol enters the picture, there will be a little more of everything. In the future, look for wine and cheese pairings, and in the meantime, nosh on pane with butter and anchovies, and two for a dollar cookies.
Other highlights include piano concerts on the weekends, free Internet access and a great backyard with a garden. Once the summer hits and grass begins to grow Mazzoni plans to encourage patrons to bring towels and blankets and picnic on the Milk and Roses lawn. He adds, “Let the garden be a garden, and give people the keys.”
Milk and Roses is located at 1110 Manhattan Avenue (between Clay and Dupont). They are currently open from 7:30 am (8:00 for food) to 9:00 pm, look out for extended hours as they continue to expand.