I wasn’t particularly fond of reading when I was growing up. To me, reading was for my older sister—hoarding books under her bed and in her dresser drawers. Underneath my bed was a fort filled with rocks, colored pencils and the occasional Harper’s Bazaar I would steal from the mailbox before my mother might notice. I longed to be one of the models that graced those glossy publications that my mother lightly flipped through in the mornings, donning a fluffy robe and sipping her coffee.
As I grew a bit older, my love for those glossy magazines transformed into a deep curiosity. I wanted to know what designers the models were wearing, what they painted on their faces and how they got into those seemingly-impossible positions. As a tall, lanky teenager, I began modeling in Chicago, and was welcomed into the world I was so in awe of. While that career never made it to the pages of Vogue, I felt satisfied knowing I was learning all about that coveted industry. I was obsessed with Dolce & Gabbana’s shows, wishing I was one of their prized Italian models, wearing white lace with an impeccable tan. I appreciated the timelessness of Burberry London’s campaigns season after season, and the simplicity and class found in Parisian fashion. I saw European culture as the epitome of what I wanted to be: simple, elegant, timeless.
As years went by, my mother and I expanded our love for European fashion to European everything. I remember her getting me subscriptions to Vogue Paris and Tatler and pointing out just how beautiful the campaigns were, especially in comparison to the American magazines. Birthday after birthday, my gifts became less about fashion and more about European culture. I have stacks and stacks of books on French coffee, Parisian style and Italian food. To this day, these books are my most prized possessions.
Fast forward to my move to Nashville. I moved here to write, and somehow found myself back in front of cameras and on local runways. I wasn’t interested in writing songs, something that might have served me well in this city if I wasn’t totally tone-deaf, but more in writing about the things that I saw around me. In between shoots, I would park myself at a little café and read about Julia Child’s time in France while sipping a cappuccino (or, after four o’clock, a bottle of chianti). It wasn’t until this past spring that I decided I was going to teach myself Italian, in hopes that I could one day walk the streets of Positano and seamlessly order a glass of wine and plate of pasta.
For weeks I would sit outside in the sun, sip my coffee and take notes on Italian pronouns. It became my ritual—something that gave me a routine and purpose. While I tend to find myself on the other side of the camera now—styling the shoots and creating the visions—I still love to steal time away at a café, learning more about European culture, and sipping a cappuccino.
“I still love to steal time away at a café, learning more about European culture, and sipping a cappuccino.”
Of course, I wouldn’t keep my favorite cappuccino places all to myself. This is a list on my top choices around town for the perfect, European-inspired cup.
Restoration Hardware | Green Hills
We all know that the food and beverages at Restoration Hardware reflect the extravagance of the atmosphere. It’s hard not to feel inspired when surrounded by immaculate marble countertops and crystal chandeliers. My advice is to go to their café on a rainy day and enjoy a warm cup while watching the rain fall on the window-paneled ceilings. While their main restaurant and café are stunning places to sit and sip, they also allow you to take your drinks to their rooftop patio, something I know I’ll be doing more of once spring is well under way.
Tempered Café & Chocolate | Germantown
On the corner of 5th and Madison in Germantown lies a French café that I’ve nearly always tried to keep to myself (until now). Tempered Café not only offers some of the yummiest coffee I’ve yet to find in Nashville, but the most amazing chocolate and refined list of French wines, as well. Just add a book and cheese board and you’ll feel like you’re in France. Want to feel like you’re in the 20s with the French poets and writers? The café transforms in an absinthe bar at night, serving signature cocktails during what they call The Green Hour.
The Perch | Brentwood
When I’m in Brentwood, The Perch is where I find myself when I’m looking for a good cappuccino and a nice place to pull out a book (or my lap top). They have such a quaint, welcoming atmosphere and the kindest baristas. There’s this back room with a little table next to the window that I’ve declared as my desk—I’m not sure why I keep finding others sitting there, but I suppose I’ll let it slide. For those living closer to Green Hills, their second location is equally charming.
Milk & Honey | The Gulch
If you happen to find yourself in The Gulch, I suggest getting your coffee order from Milk & Honey. They combine a retro American diner feel with details you might find at an Italian Osteria. While it may seem like an odd combination, I don’t suggest leaving Milk & Honey without trying their pizzas made from their authentic Italian wood-fired pizza oven. Cappuccinos and pizza, why not?
Giovanni Ristorante | Belle Meade & Midtown
For an authentic Italian feel, Giovanni’s is the place to go. The restaurant itself resembles a Tuscan villa, allowing you to get lost in their Italian-imported ingredients and finish up with a foamy cappuccino. You’ll feel like you’re in a scene from Under the Tuscan Sun after eating at Giovanni’s. They have two locations in Nashville (Midtown and West Nashville), having originated from Midtown Manhattan.