Starbucks wants customers to feel they’re not just visiting a re-skinned coffee shop when they stop at Princi. That’s the new bakery, an import from Italy, making its Chicago debut today in the West Loop. Staff serves up Roman-style pizza squares and mixes up sparkling cocktails at the bar at 1000 W. Randolph Street.
The coffee giant’s hometown of Seattle earlier this summer witnessed the opening of the first Princi in America, and it’s a concept Starbucks is bringing to New York later this fall. While busy commuters will still have the standard Starbucks — such as a location right across the street from Princi in Chicago — Princi hopes to give customers a new experience, something younger customers seem to crave more.
Baker Rocco Princi opened his first location in Villa San Giovanni, Italy in 1986. He’s grown his company, opening bakeries in London and elsewhere in Europe. Starbucks will operate the U.S. locations, but they will use Princi’s recipes, selling premium bread loaves, cakes, and more.
The space feels at home along Randolph Restaurant Row with many features large local restaurant groups use inside their locations. The windows swing open to Randolph for an al fresco feel. Logan Square’s hipsters would feel welcome on the bar side thanks to decor. There’s plenty of display cases filled with a rotating selection of pastries. Customers can see workers take pizzas out of the ovens. Chains are banking on culinary transparency.
The pizza should be familiar enough to Chicago thanks to success of Bonci, the Italian pizza maker that has its only two stores in the U.S. in the West Loop and Wicker Park. The recipes and crusts differ, but Bonci has already done the heavy lifting when it comes to introducing a unique pizza style to a serious pizza metropolis like Chicago.
The breakfast sandwiches feature ingredients like prosciutto aged for 20 months and speck. There are brioche croissants and other specialty goods. A company spokesperson stressed that Princi has its own dedicated commissary, separate from where pastries are baked for its normal coffee shops. Starbucks feels it’s a huge upgrade compared to the pastries sold at its stores. Though, some bakers would say it’s not hard to improve on that.
Princi’s baked goods will arrive next year on the Mag Mile inside the upcoming Starbucks roastery. Starbucks could use reaction from customers in the West Loop to figure out which items to offer on Michigan Avenue.
Starbucks is inviting customers to try something different. They’re at least hoping it doesn’t become another Teavana, its abandoned tea concept that never took off — at least as a brick and mortar — in Lakeview and inside Water Tower Place. America’s second Princi is now open in Chicago.
Princi, 1000 W. Randolph Street, (312) 243-9097, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays; 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends.