Dolce vita, sweet life: that’s quite the name to live up to. If there’s anywhere that could provide me with the sweet life, an ideal cafe would be the place. A good cup of coffee, preferably a cappuccino or cortado; an excellent croissant, think Dominque Ansel or Almondine; a nice table, at which I can sit and read; and finally loads of natural light are must-have for my sweet life cafe. Would this cafe, so conveniently located by lectures, fit the bill?
It had the big windows, a table in the windows and was far enough off the beaten track that you didn’t feel rushed. Still, there was an element of quickness that pervaded the bar, that pervades every Italian bar and left me feeling pressured to get moving. I first noticed this bar while I shopping at the natural food store across the street. The cafe has tried to work with the ‘natural’ foods element, providing patrons with rice and soy milk cappuccini and whole meal bread. The cornetti are your regular, non-whole grain pastries. It would have been more exciting to find a whole grain brioche.
On the inside, the cafe wasn’t that alternative. It looked like every other Italian cafe in Pavia and everywhere else. I ordered my cornetto vuoto, with some unfortunate sugar crystals on top, and a soy milk cappuccino, just for the kick of it. I took a seat in the window, eager to observe the world for a bit on this fall morning. Unfortunately, it was a small side street and most of the activity was in the bar, right by where I was sitting. It was hardly the peaceful environment I imagined.
The barista handed me my soy milk cappuccino in a glass and I attempted to settle in. The cappuccino looked good, lovely proportions in perfect thirds. The cornetto looked okay, a bit shiny, but nothing to frown at. The moment I ripped off a bit of the cornetto I realized that it was dense inside. Supremely dense, verging on the kind of heavy brioches that have emerged from my kitchen. This wasn’t a croissant from Almondine or Dominque Ansel.
The bread like taste was familiar, it reminded me certain croissants that I’ve had in Bristol. While I enjoyed the familiarity of the taste, I was disappointed. I wanted a transcendent experience while looking out the window. The cappuccino also left a little to be desired. Perhaps Italian soy milk is more authentically crunchy-granola than American soy milk (the fact that you can find eggnog soy milk in America would suggest that this is so), but it tasted bland and thin. I wanted a thick, dense, soy-ish foam. I’ve loved me my soy milk lattes in the past and was disappointed in the cappuccino. I wonder if the barista didn’t misunderstand me and use rice milk instead.
Overall, this cafe was a disappointment. In fact, it was the most disappointing cafe experience that I’ve had thus far in Italy. If I want to truly find my perfect cafe experience, I’m going to have to attempt to change my attitude. That doesn’t mean accepting the Italian way necessarily — I doubt I’ll ever want to stand up to eat a brioche — but rather accept the pastries for what they are. And not feel like I need to be pushed out. I can take my time. You can rush yours. We can use this cafe enviornment together.
What is an essential component for your sweet life?