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Princi at Starbucks Roastery, Seattle
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Starbucks Gets Into the Bakery-Cafe Business (Again)

Its partnership with Italian chain Princi kicks off today

Starbucks has a new motto: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Today, the world’s biggest coffee chain rolls out a new food and pastry menu in partnership with Princi, an Italian bakery-cafe with five locations in Europe. The company’s Seattle Roastery is the first location to offer the new menu. Soon, Starbucks’ Roasteries and Reserve locations around the world will serve house-baked breads, focaccia pizza with buffalo mozzarella, and sandwiches stuffed with bresaola and mortadella — a far cry from the cake pops and oversized muffins served at regular Starbucks locations.

Starting next year, Starbucks will help Princi open standalone Italian cafes. Naturally, they’ll serve Starbucks’ coffee.

“We’re getting into the food business,” Starbucks’ chairman Howard Schultz told the Washington Post. “Princi will be fully integrated with bakery operations, so not only will we be roasting coffee, but we’ll be baking bread, pastries — the kind of Italian pastries you’ve never seen in America.” The roll-out represents the first time in the company’s 45-year history that it will be baking fresh on-site. Princi Seattle is equipped with three state-of-the-art Wenz deck ovens from Germany. The ovens will be running throughout the day, with items being baked fresh from 3 a.m. and nearly up until close at 11 p.m., ensuring customers can come in and get fresh, warm cornetti (Italy’s version of the croissant).

Princi was founded by baker Rocco Princi in 1986, and currently has five locations in Milan and one in London. Starbucks invested in the Italian bakery chain last year; Starbucks founder Howard Schultz says he fell in love with Princi’s food while he was in Italy learning the coffee culture.

Princi, Milan
Princi, Milan
Princi Milan/Facebook
Princi, Milan Princi Milan/Facebook

Princi’s U.S. outlets will will stay faithful to the menu of European stores, with a slightly pared down menu serving the bakery’s “greatest hits.” The Princi at the Seattle Roastery offers more than 100 menu items using locally sourced produce and dozens of Italian imports, such as tomato sauce from Campania and prosciutto from Parma.

Interestingly, there are no printed menus: Diners will have to engage with the counter staff, known as “commessas,” to learn more about what’s available at the moment. The menu will shift throughout the day: Breakfast offerings include cornetti sandwiches with prosciutto cotto and fontina and baked eggs in porcini sauce, while lunchtime will see pizza al taglio, focaccia sandwiches, soups, and salads. Housemade desserts like cookies, tarts, tiramisu, and crostata will be available beginning at 2 p.m. daily, and an “aperitivo” menu will feature small plates such as olives and focaccia with ‘nduja alongside beer, wine, and spirits at the full bar.

Starbucks partners with Italian bakery Princi
Princi’s lunch offerings
Starbucks partners with Italian bakery Princi
Princi’s pizza

Starbucks currently has just one Roastery in its hometown of Seattle, with additional locations planned for Shanghai, Chicago, and New York. (Meanwhile, as Starbucks prepares to add Princi locations inside future Roasteries, the company has signed a lease for a commissary kitchen in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood.)

The Seattle Roastery opened in 2014, and along with the Reserve stores, represents Starbucks’ efforts to cater to coffee aficionados with higher-end offerings, an initiative that’s being spearheaded by Schultz. As Starbucks opens more Roasteries, it has also started introducing Reserve bars within existing stores that serve single-origin coffee.

For anyone keeping score, this isn’t the first time Starbucks has bet big on a bakery partnership: Back in 2012, Starbucks bought La Boulange, a San Francisco-area bakery chain, for $100 million and began stocking all Starbucks stores with La Boulange pastries — but by 2014, customers soured on the fancier European-style baked goods, and the company ended up nixing the pastries and shuttering all standalone La Boulange stores.

The partnership with Princi is different in the sense that Starbucks won’t be trying to foist artisan baked goods on customers who really just want a Frappuccino and a slice of marble pound cake. Instead, the Princi menu will only be offered at its high-end Roastery and Reserve stores, where presumably customers who are shelling out for pricier coffee will also want a suitably fancy snack to go along with it.

The company’s partnership with Princi has been billed as a true cultural exchange: While the chain imports Princi stateside, it’s simultaneously preparing to open Italy’s first Starbucks in 2018 — a Roastery location in Milan. Though many have wondered whether Italians, with their own dearly held espresso traditions, will turn up their noses at American-born coffee, Howard Schultz has promised they’re approaching Italy “with great humility and respect.”

Dana Hatic and Adam H. Callaghan provided additional reporting.

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