Un piccolo caffè (How Italian Coffee Just Doesn’t Measure Up)

I pretty much love everything about Italy. A carb, cheese, and wine-based diet? Done. A balcony on every window? Yes, please. Narrow, twisty cobble-stone lanes? Adorable. (Okay, I do appreciate New York’s grid system when trying to, you know, actually find a specific location. But there is nothing adorable about a grid.) Beautiful scenic vistas and all the greatest art the Renaissance produced? Sign me up. I could live here.

Except for one thing.

The size of a cup of coffee.

In typical American fashion, mug size seems to have outgrown Mr. Coffee’s definition of a cup of coffee.  We want everything BIG. Your average novelty mug may not look supersized but have you noticed that pouring yourself a cup of coffee generally depletes your pot’s value by two? So if you need two mugfuls of coffee to feel alive in the morning, you’re probably drinking four.  We are beautifully addicted to caffeine in America.

I’m not talking quality here. There’s no question your average Italian expresso is more natural and delicious than Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts.  And probably has triple the caffeinated jolt. It’s just…there’s so little of it.

I don’t want to do a shot of coffee.  I came to coffee late in life, and I have years of coffee-drinking to make up for. Luxuriating over a giant steaming mug has become my morning ritual. You can’t meander over a cup of coffee that is three sips long. Just when you’re really ready to savor it, it’s gone.

Now, my experience of Italians is such that they can probably make three sips last an hour.  But as much as it pains me, I am embarrassingly American. I want more sips, more half and half, more excuse to sit still and enjoy. When the coffee is gone I actually have to face my day, go to the gym or work. At least take a shower. I want to bathe in my coffee, I want it to cocoon and protect me from the harsh reality of…reality. The reality of not sitting in my bathrobe on my couch contemplating whether having another cup would cross the line of acceptability and just leave me having to pee all day.

To add insult to injury, Italians drink their coffee STANDING UP.  Please see previous paragraph about couches and bathrobes.  Coffee shops in Italy are essentially bars, without stools, tables or chairs. Starbucks java might taste like an ash tray, but at least I can sit and read or write while I drink it at my leisure. For less than two bucks I can buy myself out of my stuffy apartment and into some good people watching and a laptop-holding table (lacking a desk at home, my laptop platform is always, in fact, my lap.) It’s rather ironic, given the long, indulgent way Italians eat meals, that they don’t even take a seat for five minutes to shoot their cappucino.

I realize that if this is the extent of my culture shock, Italy is not so bad.  Between the still milking mozzerrella cheese, neverending baskets of bread, creamier than cream gelato, and homemade pasta…like I said, you had me at carbs. Me and Italian cuisine, we are getting along just fine.

Still, I do miss the corner breakfast cart in New York where I buy my EXTRA large iced coffees, which keep me vibrating and content all day. Then again, I guess they don’t leave me anywhere to sit either.

Categories: Fluff and Philosophical Nonsense | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Un piccolo caffè (How Italian Coffee Just Doesn’t Measure Up)

  1. Mom and Dad

    I love this! And I agree with your need for more than a gulp. Make mine a 24 ouncer.

  2. So ask for a latte. Or an americano (esspresso and water). My experience was they will accommodate.

  3. Homemade pasta…mozzarella…that sounds AMAZING.

    I need to linger over a great big cup of tea myself. I’m looking forward to proper fall hot-tea weather instead of iced tea.

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