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Dust my Cap: Italian Coffee

Mar
30
2006
Oh happy day…

Inspired by my colleague’s musings on glasses in Spain, I thought I’d chime in with another Euro-beverage tip.
Italian coffee may have inspired the whole mocha-fluffacchino revolution, but Italians don’t like funny business when it comes to java.
You can have a “caffè” (an espresso) any time you want, the main variations are a double (caffè doppio), caffè lungo (with a splash of hot water) or the contradictory “caffè corretto” (spiked with liqueur, you’ll see old guys charging up on this from mid-morning on but you can reasonably start ordering it after lunch).


Anything involving milk – even just milk in your coffee – is strictly morning stuff and never after a meal. The Italian thinking is that milk is terrible for the digestion, a latte macchiato could throw you into a devastating fit of dyspepsia after, say, eating a pizza.
But the next time you’re in Italy and you think you’ve managed to successfully communicate to the barista that you want a cappuccino (and I do hope you haven’t raised his eyebrow by ordering it at 4 p.m.), he’ll probably shoot back a one-word question:
“Cacao?”
You must answer quickly, before his attention turns to those other caffeine-deprived people waving receipts at him over the counter.
He wants to know if you want chocolate dusted on top. The dusting is not a layperson thing (you, as customer, are only allowed to sugar) and the only acceptable thing is chocolate.
I’m not a big fan. It’s bitter chocolate and inevitably ends up either all over your front or congealing in unsavory lumps with the foam.
When I cheat and want something a little easier on my American stomach, I order a marocchino (literally “Moroccan”), it’s coffee, bitter chocolate and steamed milk (in that order, so the chocolate doesn’t fly around), served in glass — and it slips through the Italian coffee culture radar if you have it after lunch.
But then I saw the Happy Cappuccio.
For the 29.3 seconds when the sun came out in Milan yesterday, I ran to the park to meet a friend. Still in acceptable cappuccino-imbibing hours (11 a.m.), the barman at the kiosk wanted to know about the cacao question.
“One yes, one no,” I said, amazed that this cacao thing has become so widespread. But when I saw that hers had a happy face, I frowned.
The barista said I could have a smiley face on top of mine too – if I wanted one.
Feeling about six, I asked him to dust me.
It made for a lumpy, bitterish drink, but I just may become a convert.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 7:31 AM | Permalink

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