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Italian Coffee: a guide

ITALIAN COFFEE- A GUIDE
Written by Veronica Lavenia

Credits: © Ph. Veronica Lavenia – The Wolf Post

The intense aroma of roasted coffee fills the house in the early hours of the morning. The “rumble” of the old coffee moka pot (which, by virtue of its age, makes a divine coffee) and the “ringing” of the porcelain coffee cups, ready for use, come from the kitchen, punctual as a wake-up call. The first Espresso of the day is special and, as such, should be consumed: calmly, fully savoring each drop, possibly together with the people you love, because drinking coffee with someone means taking care of the other person. So begins a new day of a typical Italian family.

Every Italian has a favorite coffee-bar where Espresso is made as “God commands”, a very common expression among Italians when they talk about food (to make something like “God commands” means make it very well).
Hot and creamy: these are two of the most rules for a true, good Italian coffee. Then, there are the emotions and those are subjective but, equally, essential because, for Italians, coffee is taste of home, sharing, energy, passion.

ITALIAN COFFEE STYLE:

Espresso is, undoubtedly, Italy’s favorite coffee, the one for which Italy is known in the world along with cappuccino. While the latter is strictly eaten in the morning for breakfast, often accompanied by the classic Cornetto (Italian translation for Croissant), or a freshly baked pastries, espresso “cuddle” Italians from the early hours of the morning until early afternoon (for some, even into the evening).

In Italy, coffee is served in different ways because, just as Pasta, it is considered an art with different customs and tradition. In many cafés, coffee menu is also 3 pages long. Here, a guide to Italian coffee. Some suggestions to choose your favorite cup and drink it like Italians do.

Espresso:
concentrated coffee, obtained by extracting the aromatic properties of a few seconds (no more than 25).

Ristretto:
a very reduced espresso. It takes about 15 seconds to extract the aromatic properties.
Macchiato:
it is an espresso “stained” with milk cream. Often, the milk is “foamed” before pouring.
Cappuccino:
it contains the same ingredients of macchiato coffee but is served in a large porcelain cup and so in a greater amount. Both coffee and milk are foamed and, usually, is also added cocoa powder to extend the taste.
Marocchino:
coffee is long, dusted with cocoa powder, cream and another dusting of cocoa powder.
Lungo:
Long coffee “drops in the cups” within 35 seconds. The quantity of coffee in the cup is more precisely because it is greater the time in which the liquid drops.
Decaffeinato:
Decaffeinated coffee is obtained through chemical methods (solvents) or with water. You should prefer decaffeinated obtained with water.
Corretto:
Literally “Corrected coffee”, is an espresso modified by the addition of a small amount of a gin, usually brandy. It is, especially, consumed in winter in Northern Italy.

THE PERFECT CUP:

As the glass for wine, even the cup for coffee really matter. A wrong cup penalizes even the best Espresso.

The perfect coffee cup is in porcelain (excellent thermal insulator, ideal for keeping your coffee warm as possible), preferably white to bring out the color of cream and with adequate space (usually in the form of a truncated cone) to allow greater amplification of the aromas.

The cup should be pre-heated to a temperature of about 35-40° C so that the coffee-cream is more compact and hot, succeeding, in this way to enhance the salient features and the aromas of the coffee.

Such as tea cups for the British, in Italy, in every home, never fail, several coffee services (cup, spoons, sugar bowl), from the most prized pieces, until the coffee service for every day.

Italian women are very fond of collecting coffee cups. The most important cups are, usually, handed down from mother to daughter, to become, over the years, real vintage pieces, such as coffee maker (“Caffettiera Moka”), increasingly replaced by modern machines for coffee.

WHERE COFFEE IS VERY SPECIAL:

The true Italian coffee has a nutty color, a creamy texture and intense aroma. Naples and Trieste are the two cities with the oldest coffee tradition. The short list suggested is only an indication of some historic cafés, from North to South of the Country, who have in their menu, specialty coffees, whose recipe is secret. Of course, beyond this address, you can enjoy a good cup of coffee in every corner of Italy.

Caffé al Bicerin (Turin): 

opened in 1763, its specialty is Bicerin, espresso coffee, chocolate and cream, prepared according a secret recipe. The name derives from the fact that coffee is served in tall glasses for bringing out the color and creaminess.

Pedrocchi (Padua):

historic café, internationally renowned. Defined by the French writer Stendhal: “Le meilleur café d’Italie”, the best Italian coffee bar, is famous for the “Stendhal Eggnog” (Zabaione di Stendhal), in honor of the French writer who mentions the Pedrocchi coffee in Charterhouse of Parma. The eggnog recipe is secret but it is equally well known its coffee with cream and fresh mint mixture.

Caffè Florian (Venice):

one of the symbols of Venice, is the oldest Italian coffee. Since its opening, in 1720, is an obligatory stop for tourists.

 Harry’s bar (Venice):

There is a little piece of America in this bar, which has become an institution over time. In the twenties of the last century, an American student, Harry Pickering, moved in Venice with his aunt to seek treatment from a start of alcoholism. After a fight, the aunt abandoned her nephew to his fate and penniless. The barman of the hotel where lived the American boy, Giuseppe Cipriani, moved by the story, lent the young 10,000 lire (about 5,000 dollars), a considerable sum for that time, to enable him to return home. A few years later, the young man, recovered from alcoholism, turned to Venice, tracked Cipriani and, in gratitude, gave him back the full amount, adding 40,000 lire so that he could open his own business. Cipriani decided to call his bar “Harry’s Bar”.

Giubbe rosse (Florence):

so called because in nineteenth century, when it was founded, the waiters were dressed as the Viennese with the redcoats. Here coffee is shaken and served in a cup cocktail.

 Caffè Greco (Rome):

historical coffee bar, timeless charm and unforgettable coffee, in Via Condotti, the famous luxury shopping street.

Gran Caffè La Caffettiera (Naples and Rome):

A bar but also a museum of the Neapolitan coffee where you can see all the versions of the Neapolitan coffee makers, from the most ancient to the modern moka. Accurate service, the glass of water (for cleaning the mouth and enjoy the best cup of coffee) always precedes espresso (strictly served with Neapolitan).

Caffè Tico (Naples):

after enjoying the real Neapolitan espresso, at Caffè Tico you can also buy mixtures of their own production, ground or beans, to prepare an excellent coffee at home.

Grand Café Gambrinus (Naples):

in one of the most legendary coffee bar in Naples, Belle Èpoque style, assiduously attended by Ernest Hemingway and others writers, artists, you can enjoy the secret recipe of coffee with Hazelnut.

ITALIAN COFFEE- A GUIDE

PH. Veronica Lavenia

CAFFÈ SOSPESO – SUSPENDED COFFEE:

In Naples, coffee is not only “just” a ritual, but a popular right. Everyone should have the pleasure of being able to enjoy at least one cup of coffee a day. For some, however, even a simple cup of coffee can be a luxury. Thus was born, in Naples, a century ago, the tradition of suspended coffee, the caffè sospeso.
The Neapolitan writer Luciano de Crescenzo, in one of its best seller dedicated to caffè sospeso, perfectly described this custom: “When a Neapolitan is happy for some reason, instead of paying just one coffee, one that he would drink, he pays two, one for himself and one for the customer who comes next. It’s like offering a cup of coffee to the rest of the world. The coffee suspended is a Neapolitan habit but also a philosophy of life”.

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About the author

Veronica Lavenia

PhD (former University academic). Italian based food writer, magazine contributor, some of my works have appeared and appears in the most popular International food magazine, as “Gluten-free Heaven”; "Vegetarian Living"; "Veggie Magazine"; "Lifestyle FOOD"; "Australian Good Food & Travel Guide; and "Chickpea", among others.
Foodpreneur, founder of @laveniasicilianchocolate