The names of Italian cafes are completely ridiculous. Maybe it’s because people don’t need a fancy title to convince them to head to their local bar, there’s no reason to call it by its name. People are loyal to one or another for an indescribable variety of reasons that will never be truly visible/comprehendible to the outsider. I see people stream into cafes, take their coffee standing up, quickly rush in and out, chat with friends, chat with people they may not know, do their own thing. Albeit a strictly regimented own thing. When you veer away from the proper way to eat a cornetto or drink coffee — even if there really is no proper way — it makes you feel as if you are being marked as an outsider.
But that’s not totally true, I don’t think so. While it may feel as if people are watching the outsider, I think they’re ultimately happy that someone cares enough to stop in for a coffee. Italian cafes are just so different from American and British ones that it can be difficult for an outsider like me to really understand what’s going on straight away. If this hasn’t been a theme with every cornetto chronicles post, then I’m not doing my job as a blogger.
I went to Milani Caffè e Caffè (at least, I think that’s the name) on my mom’s birthday, a Saturday, to celebrate. If I wasn’t going to be able to eat a croissant at Almondine with her, I was going to eat a breakfast pastry with her in mind. Unfortunately, it’s a small but critical difference (both with her/with her and mind AND croissant/breakfast pastry). There wasn’t a reason that I selected this cafe above all others. It looked nice, big windows and ample seating. It was a bit of a walk, but a pleasant one. They seemed to have different varieties of coffee and a myriad of cornetti, which makes me want to take a return trip.
My goal was to sit and enjoy lingering, I knew my mother would want me to do so. My cappuccio (that’s what they call it around here, I haven’t been able to order anything other than a cappuccino…what can I say) came with coco powder art that reminded me of what I got at Speakeasy in London. Slowly, I ripped off a bit of my cornetto and tasted it. It reminded me a bit of some that I’ve had in Bristol, some of the middle of the road ones. There was the slightest crunch — barely there, it’s been over a month now since I’ve had a nice New York croissant — and a soft, delicate inside. This could have been doughy, but it wasn’t. It straddled a mid point between the cornetto-bread-brioche universe and a croissant. There wasn’t any butter flavor, but there also wasn’t that sweet, sometimes cloying flavor that Italians love. Coming from a country that puts sugar in everything (sugar in coffee, sugar at breakfast, sugar at snacks: Italians adore their sugar!), this is a big deal.
I ate slowly, dipping bits of my cornetto into my milky cappuccino. The cappuccini in Italy are always milkier than their American counterparts, but the addition of coco powder on top makes a lovely little extra flavor dimension. If they were served blisteringly warm, you would swear you’re at Starbucks. The milky flavor went well with cornetto and I ate feeling very European. People were streaming in and out. Some people simply stood at the bar, quickly injecting their caffeine, while others preferred to sit down and enjoy their morning at a more leisurely pace. There were even some people who were reading the newspaper as they enjoyed breakfast. It was the closest thing to an American cafe I have experienced thus far and I was relieved and enlightened to remember that this place can and does exist.
After about a half hour I made my way to the cash register, but not before eating the lovely little piece of valrhona chocolate that came with my cappuccino. I enjoyed it slowly. It tasted better than any valrhona I’ve tried previously.
I may not be the archetypical Italian cafe patron, but I’m figuring out this world. For the mean time, I plan to enjoy observing and taking part in my own way, no matter how errant it may seem.
Do you enjoy having breakfast out at the weekend or are you a homemade breakfast person?