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Polpari's Coffee on Salem Street in Boston. Photo: Google Streetview
Polpari's Coffee on Salem Street in Boston. Photo: Google Streetview


Get the lemon slush of your life

Nothing speaks for the quality of a shop more than the fact that its next big anniversary is when it celebrates its 100 years in existence. Well, one important argument for a coffee shop in Boston is that it was founded by an immigrant from Italy, the land of espresso.

That’s Polcari’s Coffee for you. You’ll find it on Salem Street in Boston’s North End, a couple of blocks from the Paul Revere House where it’s been since its foundation in 1932. Anthony Polcari didn’t just get off a boat and start a coffee shop, though. Having one was a dream for which he worked for, like any good immigrant young man in America in the late 1920s.

Working as a pocket-maker at a local tailor’s shop, Polcari made sure he had some money left over in his own pockets and in 1932, he opened the doors on Polcari’s Coffee. What a proud moment that must have been for a man in his twenties, and a father of two sons - Anthony Jr and Ralph - and a daughter, Marie. All three later worked at their father’s store.Bobby and Ralph. Photo: Polcari's Coffee

Today, the shop is famous for more than just coffee - although the selection of beans is still very impressive – and especially its lemon slush.

Anthony’s son, Ralph, took over the shop after he’d returned home from Italy where he had been stationed during the World War II, and ran it until 2005 when he sold it to Bobby Eustace one of “Ralph’s boys”, a group of men who had come to work for him as young boys and stayed with him for decades.

“I met Ralph when my good friend, Anthony Bellia, knew Ralph Polcari needed a full-time employee at the store. During those twenty-six years I worked with some of the best people I’ve ever met: Louie, Pasquale, Attilio, Anthony, Angelo, and most importantly, Ralph Polcari. Ralph was a driving influence in my life. He taught me about business and life. He quickly became my mentor,” Eustace says on the compamy’s website.

According to Eustace, Ralph Polcari believed at least part of the store’s charm was its old world look, which is why he, too has kept a scale from 1903, the hardwood floor, brass bins for the coffee, and an original fan from the early 1900s.

“With a plethora of rare coffee including Blue Mountain and Hawaiian Kona, old favorites are still the most popular. Some old favorites are Mr. Polcari’s house blend (a mixture of dark and light roast) and the Italian roast (an espresso).I consider myself a museum keeper, committed to running this business with Mr. Polcari, Ralph and the rest of their family, in mind,” he adds.

Oh, the slush?

“[It’s]has been here a lot longer than [me],”  Eustace told the Boston Herald six years ago.

“They used to make it by hand back in the day using some kind of dry ice. I’m guessing we’ve been doing it 50 years at least, and maybe even back to the founding of the store (in 1932).”

And that’s why, when the summer arrives, Eustace brings out a 100-year-old barrel of slush and sells it on the corner of Salem and Parmenter. A cup of slush costs about two dollars, but the experience is, well, priceless.

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