Cornetto Chronicles: Caffè Petrarca


The other day, while researching Italian coffee culture for my year three essay, I heard an amazing thing.  I heard a barista say that the cappuccino was the most popular drink at her bar not just in the morning, but in the afternoon as well.  I was shocked, delighted and eager to get writing about that seemingly simple statement.  After all, every single guide to drinking coffee when in Italy berates the tourist for even contemplating ordering a cappuccino after midday.  Eh, it’s so American.  Italians don’t need all that hot milk after breakfast.

Maybe they do.  Maybe they do too.

After spending an afternoon thinking about cappuccini, I developed quite the craving.  Although I generally find a cappuccino to be overly milky and bland, the hope that I might still find a great one sent me to Caffè Petrarca the next morning to indulge in the holy duo of weekend breakfasts: brioche e cappuccio, scuro per piacere.

Caffè Petrarca was recommended to me by a friend who has tried far more bars in Pavia than I have.  She said their cappuccino and brioche con pisatcchi was the best breakfast she has eaten in Pavia.  Since I’ve eaten brioche with her and trust her judgement completely, I decided to head there to get my Saturday morning pastry fix.  She was completely correct.  I whole heartedly agree that Caffè Petrarca is the best bar for breakfast I have been to yet in Pavia.  The brioche from Spadaro may still have a piece of my heart, but sometimes you just need to sit down in order to make the most of your morning.

Caffè Petrarca is in an odd location.  It’s a location that no one in their right mind would go to if it wasn’t for the market nearby on Wednesday and Saturday.  It’s a small affair on Wednesday, filled mostly with Grandmothers who are eager to get the best deals on everything.  Saturday, however, the market belongs to everyone.  Caffè Petrarca is the perfect stop to get your energy up for shopping.

The cafe is nearly all white inside and looks a bit space-agey in a very Italian way.  There’s an area to sit down and a small bar if you prefer a quick caffeine pit-stop.  Since I am one of the slowest eaters in Italy, I decided to sit down, right in the window.  I was definitely the youngest one in there.  The clientele was mostly grandmothers and grandfathers getting ready to buy their salami and arancie for the week.  I didn’t mind, I long ago gave up the idea that I would perfectly embody la bella figura.

If the brioche didn’t have powdered sugar on top, it would have been perfect.  It was crispy on the outside, soft and full of layers on the inside.  The texture was similar to that of a dry croissant.  The bites that wee covered in powdered sugar tasted a bit like french toast.  French toast that has been covered in powdered sugar, that is.  I love this brioche and cannot wait to eat it again.  I didn’t even mind eating it wrapped up in a napkin.  This one seemed to lend itself well to that.  I would definitely try one of the filled ones if I went back, simply because the idea of a pistachio brioche sounds like one of the most interesting (and sweet) breakfasts ever.

The cappuccino was perfect.  It wasn’t too milky, but milky enough.  There was a beautiful, thick layer of foam on top and the latte art was lovely as well.  The taste was a bit strange, this mix could very well have robusta in it, but I enjoyed it.  The cappuccino is such an Italian drink when done properly, it’s a shame that there are so many bad versions of it out there.

I can’t wait to go back to Caffè Petrarca.  Perhaps it’s the location to the market, the company of the older Italians or the weird space age setting but sitting in the cafe I truly felt okay with the best and worst of Italy.  Then again, that could have been because I was tasting some of the best.

Do you like going to markets when traveling?  Are their any markets where you live?


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