I’ve been getting it wrong this whole time. The ordering thing, I mean. I’ve been going in, heading to the bar, placing my order and telling them that I’m going to sit. The Italians? They casually stroll in without a care in the world sit down and wait for the barista to come to them. It may take longer, but they don’t mind. It’s easy and they have time. Italians have nothing but time.
Could this be any more different from how it works in New York? No, it really couldn’t. The New York cafe will always have a special place in my heart but it’s a study in contrasts. It’s at once quick and slow. People are rushing in and lingering for hours. They are alone and they are together. The Italian bar on the other hand is for one thing: coffee. No matter the speed at which you drink it, the manner in which you take it, you’re coming to the bar to get some espresso into your system, have a social moment and then get on your way.
I’ve been bending the social expectation, sitting and staying to enjoy something more than just coffee. Reading a book and eating a cornetto with my hands makes the whole experience more fun, more Emilia. While I’ve enjoyed a few dash-ins, drinking a single espresso in two to three sips after giving it a good stir, I will always prefer sitting down.
The one time Italians will eagerly sit down for their coffee is when they’re drinking it outside. Europe has mastered al fresco dining, even the English manage to enjoy it during the few days a year when it’s properly sunny on the island. Of course, the Italians and French are the true masters. In Italy, al fresco dining is so enjoyable that it’s downright preferrable to sitting indoors, where you will usually be greeted with decor so bland, it’s a wonder that you can stay awake for the entirety of your meal. Last Thursday was one of the few last truly gorgeous days the exist in the limbo between the beginning and middle of fall. It was slightly warm, sunny, with the slightest bit of a cool breeze to help you remember that summer has left us for a while. I knew that the days were numbered for my alfresco cornetto eating, at least for a while.
As you can see in the photo, however, I didn’t eat outside. It’s all too confusing. Still, there were some outside seats at V2 bar and I have a feeling that I will be back there come springtime. Yep, I found a cornetto that I genuinely enjoyed.
The moment the barista put the cornetto in front of me I had a good feeling about it. While some cornetti look dull, with sad boring outer layers, this one looked lively, as if it was ready to be eaten. As if it hadn’t been sitting around in a glass case for the better part of the week. In fact, it looked a bit like a croissant. There were some hints of croissant-ness in the cornetto, but only in the best ways. It wasn’t cloyingly sweet like they tend to be. It wasn’t dense, dense, dense, like some of them are. The outside was slightly sticky with a lovely hint of that Italian flavor (if you can describe it, please do help me!) and the inside was soft and tender. I bit into it and felt at home. It was something I could relate to, a taste that I knew in the best way possible.
The cappuccino was forgettable. They pretty much all are. It was sweet and milky. It was a nice friend for my cornetto but not a drink that I’d go out and look for on it’s own. I wouldn’t do that with most coffee here. I’m going to have to start getting into the mood for quick cups of espresso or a macchiato if I’m really set on enjoying some proper decent coffee. Because even that is served too hot for my liking.
People streamed in and out as I sat, delicately pulling off bits of cornetto, sipping my cappuccino and reading my book. They sat down and got up, they stood at the bar, paid and left. It was quick, but for the first time I noticed a slowness that I hadn’t seen before. I noticed people who I hadn’t encountered in cafes. There were university students and young people and random people who just looked like they were on their way to work.
While I may not be in love with the decor or the coffee, I was surprised by the cornetto at V2. I enjoyed it, it reminded me of a croissant. There are more things that are familiar in Italy, I’ll just have to continue looking for them.
Who are the kind of people who frequent your local cafe?