Monday, January 31, 2011

Il bar regolare (The Coffee Shop Regular)

"One large hot caramel flavored coffee please," I say to the man dressed in the corporate Dunkin Donuts uniform. After two weeks, in the lower Manhattan shop, he is saying my order to me as I step to the front of the line. Two weeks later, he has it made before either of us can say anything.

Comfort.

In Italy, I have become a regular in so many places that I cannot help but laugh.

At the Museum of Cappuccino, I get, "Hey, you were the one in the Santa hat with the camera!"

Sant'Eustachio? They don't even ask if I want sugar anymore--they just know I don't.

Caffe below my apartment? The cappuccino is in my hands before I have time to take off my backpack.

The Bulldog? They just know what to do as I take my seat in the back room.

When it comes to cappuccino in Italy, I am a firm believer in polygamy, and I am happy to see that the baristi don't seem to mind if I miss a day at their shop, because they know, OF COURSE, they know, I will be back.

That is...until tomorrow when I will no longer be a regular and I will become the daughter of the divorced wife that they never see again.

Tomorrow, I return to America. Tomorrow, I will return to corporate oversized coffee in a styrofoam cup. Tomorrow, the cappuccino journey will end as a 10 hour flight begins. Tomorrow, I take my final cappuccino. But what would the end mean--if I didn't look back.

Here's a video for your viewing pleasure.
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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Le Ricompense di Cappuccino di Italia (The Cappuccino Awards of Italy)

The 2011 Cappy Awards

AND THE CAPPY GOES TO...

After three months of trekking the tight streets of Italy...three months of cornering caffes...three months of downing deliciousness...three months of sipping slowly...three months of fantastic foam...three months of bunches of bubbles...it is time to bring you the Cappuccino Awards of Italy. Here is your comprehensive Cappuccino Guide to Italy. (Rome and north of Rome).

Best Bubbles: Sant’Eustachio—It is no question in my mind that anyone can deny the bubble bath that is the Sant’Eustachio cappuccino. Simple and delicious, I would fill my bathtub with those bubbles any day.

Where to find it: Piazza di Sant'Eustachio, 82 Rome, Italy

How much: 1.30 Euro

Best Atmosphere: Art Studio Café—Disappointed only to find this one week before returning to America, I was happy to walk into a store that doubles as an art studio where you can watch creative minds at work, listen to hip current music, and sit writing your own Cappuccino awards.

Where to find it: Via dei Gracchi, 187 00192 Rome, Italy

How much? 1 Euro at the bar. 2 Euro to sit (and you’ll want to sit to enjoy the atmosphere)

Best Cappuccino Accompanied by a Baristo: Bar del Cavalierie --Roberto may be the only Baristo who took the time to get to know me—as best he could with my broken Italian. Tears nearly left his eyes when he learned I was moving to Rome—and then again when he learned I was returning home. Roberto.is.the.man.

Where to find him and his cappuccino: Via San Gallo 35/R Florence, Italy 50129

How much: 1.10 Euro

Best Deal: Ciampini—During my seven course cappuccino crawl, I stumbled upon this little feeder caffe off it’s larger one up the street. I developed a short conversation with the baristo on how much I enjoy speaking Italian and he mocked my Santa hat. At the end of the cappuccino he blew me a kiss and told me it was on the house.

Where to find this little nook: 21 Via del Leoncino Rome, Italy

How much? I don’t know…he gave it to me for free!

Best Cappuccino with an Imaginary Friend: Piazza delle Erbe in -A square full of shops right down the street from Juliet's house in Verona, It's the perfect spot to invite her out for a discussion on love.

Where can you sit with Juliet: Piazza delle Erbe Verona, Italy

How much will a date with Juliet cost? Somewhere between 1 Euro and 3 Euro if you want to buy homegirl a cappuccino as well.

Best Surprise: Nannini—Going to Siena, I had no idea that I would be in for a cappuccino full of foam. I had very low expectations and those were much exceeded by this classy yet lovely shop in the center.

Where to find it: Via Banchi di Sopra, 24, Siena

How much: 1.30 Euro

Best Chocolate Addition: Bull Dog—All I have to say is Espresso + Chocolate + Foam + more chocolate = absolutely award winning.

AND Most Photogenic: Bull Dog

Where to find it: Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 107 Rome, Italy

How much? 3.00 Euro

Least Photogenic: Cova—Maybe the coffee looks pretty good (I think the mug does it) but this photo was not an easy one to capture. Cova doesn’t allow photos inside (ludicrous) so they get the award for lease photogenic. LIGHTEN UP GUYS!

Where to find it: Via Monte Napoleone, 8, 20121 Milano, Italy

How much? 1.60 Euro

Best Accessorized Cappuccino: Hemingway’s. Despite my distaste for the cappuccino itself, the chocolate spoon was quite lovely.

Where to find it: Piazza Piattellina, 9 50124 Florence, Italy

How much? 4 Euro

Best on the Road: Giacosa—This could arguably be the second or third best cappuccino in all of Italy. Situated in Roberto Cavarli’s (sp) store, on a corner in Florence, it offered a mixture of espresso, wonderful bubbles, and a topping of chocolate. It was the only thing I thought about while in Florence.

Where to find it: Via della Spada, 10, 50100 Florence, Italy

How much? 1.30 Euro

Best Cappuccino To Go: Caffe Le Giubbe Rosse– at nearly 2AM this shop served me their last cappuccino of the evening in a to go cup and I was out the door and off to the Duomo to take in, as always, one of the most breathtaking landmarks in all of Italy.

Where to find it: Piazza del Repubblica

How much? Between 1 Euro and 1.30 Euro.

Most Frequented: Museum of Cappuccino (Canova)- This was my go-to spot in Rome. Offering a cappuccino double the size of most, I couldn’t help but visit here twice weekly, especially when I had not received word of another to visit!

Where to find it: Via del Babuino, 151 00187 Rome, Italy

How much? 1.30 Euro

Most Conversational Cappuccino: Bar del Cavalierie -Roberto was not only best baristo, but he served up the best conversational coffee, as I had many good talks and made many good friends with my mugs in his wonderful establishment. Always offering a hand to hold the Jolly Caffe and it’s cappuccino gets Most Conversational by a landslide.

Where to find it: Via San Gallo 35/R Florence, Italy 50129

How much? 1.10 Euro

Cutest Baristo: Bindi. On one of the coldest days of my adventure, I walked through the doors of Bindi to be greeted by the most handsome Italian baristo I had met yet. Embarrased to pull out my camera to snap a photo of him while he was working, I got only a picture of the beautiful cappuccino he crafted for me.

Where to find it: Piazzale Cadorna, 9 20123 Milano, Italy

How much? 1.20 Euro

Best Cappuccino joined by a Cookie: Caffé Venezia – On a search for the best cappuccino in all of Trento, I broke through these doors at the recommendation of my host. When I was given my cappuccino, I was happy to find a cinnamon cookie at it’s side—wonderful for dipping.

Where to find it: Largo Porto Nuova 11 38122 Trento, Italy

How much? 1.20 Euro

Best Mug: Schenardi – One of the best curves I have ever seen in a mug accompanied by a beautiful mug holder with a black and white picture of the ancient city.

Where to find it: Corso Italia 11 Viterbo, Italy

How much? 1.10 Euro

Best Alternative to a Cappuccino: Caffe al Bicherin – Though pricey, the Bicherin that Caffe al Bicherin serves up could quite possibly be the most delicious alternative to a cappuccino ever. While not good for your budget – or your health (espresso with a big layer of chocolate and cream), it is well worth the 5 euro.

Where to find it: Piazza della Consolata 5 10122 Torino, Italy

How much? 5 Euro

Best People Watching Cappuccino: Giolitti – Known mostly for their gelato, Giolittis is located in the heart of the city on a small road that leads to the Pantheon. Pedestrian traffic is high both on the tiny road and in the store, so you are bound to see and meet some characters.

Where to find it: Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 4 Rome, Italy

How much? 1 Euro

Best Size: Museum of Cappuccino-Nearly double the size of the rest of the cappuccino in Italy, this one gives you the boost you need for the entire day (which is why it concerned me when I made it my second stop on my cappuccino bar crawl!)

Where to find it: Via del Babuino, 151, Rome, Italy

How much? 1.30 Euro

Best with a Croissant: Caffe della Pace – On a Sunday morning, this makes the prefect brunch. See my article on One for the Table!

Where to find it: Via della Pace, 5 00186 Rome, Italy

How much for both to sit? 6 Euro

Best With Whipped Cream: Checco er Carrettiere – No bigger than a walk-in-closet, this stop offers a spoonfall of chocolate whipped cream to top of your cappuccino. Not usually a fan of lots of sugar, this was the perfect addition.

Where to find it: Via Benedetta 7 Rome, Italy

How much? 1.10 Euro

AND THE ONE YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR….

BEST OVERALL CAPPUCCINO:

This was a tough decision, because I am sure that I have tasted the best cappuccino in the world in Sant’Eustachio, though I didn’t make it a habit to frequent it. Two years ago, the Bull Dog had my heart, but it didn’t take my breath away this time around (though it could have been the 200 percent inflation and the removal of the penny candy in the back room). And Giacosa offered me one of the best combinations of foam and chocolate and espresso I could have ever wanted on the road. But none of these match what I have come to deem the best overall cappuccino. I had to take everything into consideration…from size, to atmosphere, to frequent visits, to the kindness of baristo. I had to choose the one that matches it’s beautiful atmosphere of statues and sculptures; the one that’s baristo has deemed me a regular and that has my cappuccino nearly ready for me before I have even said “Prendo;” the one that I frequent the most; the one that is the best size; the one that I have deemed and etched in stone as ….

The Museum of Cappuccino (CANOVA)

Where to find it: Via del Babuino, 151, Rome, Italy

How much: 1.30 Euro

Thursday, January 27, 2011

WWLD Per un Cappuccino? (What would Libs do for a Cappuccino?)

If there were only one cappuccino left to drink in the entire world…if all the foaming machines would vaporize after that last cappuccino, and all the coffee beans would just disappear, what would LIBS...me…do for that LAST cappuccino in the world?

1. Walk on Fire

2. Steal candy from a baby

3. Stick one finger into boiling hot water

4. Sleep on nails

5. Steal the cane from an elderly person to the cup first. The tortoise isn’t winning this one.

6. Jump over the rooftops of all the skyscrapers in NYC.

7. Listen to the Jonas Brothers on repeat for six weeks straight (YUCK)

8. Go into a life of solitude after (both the cappuccino and the Jonas Brothers!)

9. Burn (in a fire) all her NSYNC CDS

10. Never sing Bye Bye Bye at karaoke again.

11. Seduce the baristo

12. Swim the English Channel (with floaties)

13. Break all her One Tree Hill DVDS

14. Give up the opportunity to meet Lady Gaga, Carrie Underwood, and Johnny Depp.

15. Pass on the chance to date Jake G, Toby M, and Leo D.

16. Get an I LOVE CAPPUCCINO TATTOO Across my face.

17. Get a lower back tattoo of a cappuccino spoon

18. Go tanning and get a tan so that a cappuccino pattern developed on my back in all white…

19. Give up tickets to a Betty White episode of SNL

GIVE UP ALL DIGNITY…just for that last bubble bath of foam

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Un Cappuccino con Giulietta (A Cappuccino with Juliet)


"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."
-Romeo and Juliet
I am two blocks from Juliet's house...two blocks from the house that acts as her house...two blocks from Verona's tourist attraction (trap)...two blocks from a world of imagination.

I walked to Juliet's house and I beckoned to her window. She invited me in for a pastry, and I invited her out for a cappuccino.

"What's in a name...that which we call a cappuccino
by any other name...would still taste so wonderful..."

Now here we are.

Juliet and me.

We are standing at a bar in Piazza Erbe. We are sipping on our cappuccino, complimenting the foam that has now formed a milk mustache on each of our upper lips.

"Romeo would have loved that," I joke.

Juliet laughs.

"What does thou think of love?"

"You know... we are in the 21st century, Juliet. We don't use...thou...just "What do you think of love?"

"So says the English teacher who is returning to America to stop teaching English..."

"Touche," I say.

"Mi scusi. What do you think of love?"

"It's simple," I answer.

"Did you read my tragedy? ... Like seriously....cause I died and so did my boyfriend over love. I wouldn't call it simple..."

"No. You were written to die. That is Shakespeare's fault. You and Romeo should have plotted for a new writer before that final act..."

"I am waiting. Love...simple?"

It is. It is a hand hold. It is a lend of a smile on a bad day. It is a hug when you feel nothing but loneliness. It is in what you do without being asked. It is in a handwritten letter. It is in this cappuccino. It is in your heart.

I look down at my cappuccino and then back to Juliet. "It is magical and fantastic. It is everything. It is simple."

"It sounds like you have thought about this a lot."

"Maybe."

"Love can--and has been--a tragedy my dear."

"Or love can be life..." I add.

I look down at my cappuccino and I see a reflection of everything I have ever loved develop in the foam.

I look back at Juliet...to where she was standing, but she is gone.

"Love is believing," I think out loud.

"Thanks for letting me believe in you for a bit Juliet," I whisper to myself. "Thanks for letting me believe in love."

I look back to my cappuccino.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Il cappuccino sul Confine (The cappuccino on the Border)

I’m on the border of two countries. One foot is placed perfectly in the pizza capital of the world, while the other is plopped into Austria. I am in a running position—on my way to Munich, where meat is their speciality and where my vocabulary goes as far as “Danke…” to mean thank you. I am leaving cappuccino paradise for three days, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy one last one for the road—one last one on the road.

The truth is that I am on a train, unsure of what country I am in at the present moment. I could still be at the tip top of Italy, but there are police men walking through each corridor asking for passports. This hints me that I may have already crossed into Austria—or that I was really standing between country lines. Either way—I don’t have a care in the world. The only thing sitting between me and the window to the unknown territory is a perfect last cappuccino for the road—a perfect last cappuccino on the road.

Before sneaking to the back cart to order my cappuccino I take in the scenery. The view is nice—snow filling the creases of the mountains that fold over like a fortune cookie along the tracks, and skylines outlined by rocks and the tops of trees. Rather than dreading this 4.5 hour train ride to Munich, Germany for my detour outside the country walls, I approach it like an amusement park—full of thrills…full of spins…full of loops—unexpected jars. It’s like I am on the famous train ride in Epcot…where without leaving the park, you visit every country on earth that you can imagine. This is the perfect opportunity for the last cappuccino that I will have for three days—for the last cappuccino I will have before I enter the world of meat lovers—(where, being a vegetarian, I may find no eats at all!).

“Prendo un cappuccino,” I say politely to the waitress in the restaurant cart. She looks at me funny. I take note that she’s not Italian. “A cappuccino, please,” I say. The train may or may not be in Italy anymore, but the language sure isn’t Italian. “Sure, a cappuccino,” she says.

“Where are you from?” I add.

“Austria.”

“So you speak German?”

“And English…”

Immediately, I begin quizzing her in German—knowing full well that I won’t have a chance in Munich with the locals if I can’t spit a word—literally.

“How do I say thank you?” “And you are welcome?” “How about please?”

And how do you say “Can I please have a cappuccino?”

"Ein cappuccino bitte"

I laugh out loud. She clearly doesn’t understand why I am laughing. It’s okay. I still get pleasure out of it.

She foams milk onto the top of my espresso which is placed perfectly in a to go cup to take back to my seat: my cappuccino for the road…my cappuccino on the road…my cappuccino on the tracks…my cappuccino on the border.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No sei il Caravaggio di Cappuccino (No you are not the Caravaggio of Cappuccino)


Daily Routine in Italy

Pick new cappuccino place. (Today, I choose Cova in Milan)

Walk out the door.

Trip over cobblestone.

Locate designated caffe for the day.

Mispronounce “Prendo un Cappuccino” in Italian.

Pay for morning cappuccino.

Stand at a bar.

Smile.

Wait for baristo.

Ask for cappuccino.

Watch cappuccino be made.

Smile.

Mispronounce “Perfetto” as cappuccino is placed in front of me.

.Not Welcome Today.

“Lei,” (Miss), the baristo sounds as if he is scolding me. I look up. He is. He says, “Lei,” again, and then points to my left. There is a sign with a photo of a camera crossed off. No photos or video, the sign reads.

“Mi scusi,” I apologetically, yet surprisingly, say.

I try to explain that I take pictures of all the cappuccino that I drink, but my Italian fails, and the baristo looks at me as if I have ten heads. I apologize again, and I turn my attention to my cappuccino.

I begin to ponder why no photos are allowed in this establishment. I understand that flash destroyes a Caravaggio and the art of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel…but while I believe that cappuccino making is an art in itself, I find it hard to believe that taking a photo of my cappuccino will destroy it’s flavor—will dissolve it’s foam—or will annihilate it. If this is the case, though, then I guess I have destroyed every cappuccino that I have ever tasted. Damn.

However, I don’t believe that this is the case. Either way, I put my thoughts behind me and analyze the coffee. Now my expectations are high. Now I believe that this cappuccino will be the best—that this cappuccino will be the David Statue of all cappuccino.

I bring the foam to my mouth, and I sip. I have a conversation with the cappuccino in my head (because I worry that I speak out loud, I will be told that this is forbidden as well).

I say, “No…mi dispiace” (No I am sorry), “no sei il cappuccino meglio,” (you are not the best cappuccino). “No sei il Statuo di David (you are not the Statue of David). No sei La Cappella Sistina (you are not the Sistine Chapel). E no sei un Caravaggio (And you are not a Caravaggio)…you are just a regular old-nothing special-cappuccino.

Which is probably why I didn’t feel bad sneaking a photo of you.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Il Cappuccino di Sorpresa (The Cappuccino of Surprise)

When I look for good cappuccino, I often feel like I should camoflage myself in Italianess, like I am battling baristas for the very best cappuccino in the world. It is as if I should be ducking behind the bar and critiquing how they treat the machines—how they clean the steamer at night. For me, it has become my own personal war with the Italian coffee shops to find the very best cappuccino in every nook of every city. Often times, I can tell by the outside lights, the décor of the bar itself, and the dress of the barista/o what I will be in for.

See the following:

Roberto: Family run business where the cappuccino is fresh and made with love.

Sant’Estauchio: No bigger than a TCBY in the states and the casualness of the baristo let you know that it could quite possibly be the best cappuccino in the world (and thus far—it is).

Tabacchi store on random corner of a small street in Florence: You know that this is the cappuccino you want to drink when nothing else is open but you need a go.

Gilli: The baristi and bariste are dressed up in their Sunday attire and make you feel like you are attending a business meeting each time you walk in. Classy, but you know the taste won’t match the look. Still, you enjoy the classy feeling.

So when I walked into what first appeared to be a classy caffe in Siena, Italy on a Monday afternoon, I half expected the cappuccino to be sub par (besides it was SIENA—we weren’t in Rome anymore (sigh)). Then when I saw the baristo who appeared uninterested in my excitement over a simple cappuccino. And so I thought: Oh boy this could be quite terrible. But I was wrong...this cappuccino turned out to be so much more. This was the cappuccino that planned a sneak attack on me—that took out my tastebuds first and melted my heart. This was the cappuccino that I never expected.

This was much more than a Tabacchi style-stay-awake-nothing else is open- cappuccino. This was a taste-good-feel good-keep you going-bubble bath-round the bases-grand slamd kind of Joe. This was my favorite cappuccino since the first time I had ever tasted Sant’Eustachio in Rome…since I first discovered that incredible bubble bath of foam—since I deemed Sant’Eustachio quite possibly the best in the world.

I can’t lie—when first handed to me, the cappuccino truly deceived my eyes. The foam seemed thin and I prepared myself for what I had already declared in my mind a disaster. Again—it was Siena, I didn’t have high expectations for the cappuccino—the sights yes—but the cappuccino…Gosh, I had no idea. As I slowly dipped my spoon into the foam, I realized that the foam was much deeper than I had predicted—and it was as if I had just stepped form the shallow end of the ocean into a deep drop off—like I could drown within this coffee cup—within this foam—like I had just found a fresh hot tub of foam to submerge within…and then I dove in slowly—sipping the foam, casually, realizing not only was the foam deceivingly deep but it was also stunningly tasty to the tongue.

Leaving me weak in my knees, it was the best sneak attack of the century.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Risoluzioni di Cappuccini (Resolutions of Cappuccinos)

video
Last week, my cappuccino decided it was time to write Santa a letter. This week my cappuccino feels it completely necessary to make some resolutions.

1. As the cappuccino of the world I resolve to always have foam so inviting that you will want to bathe in it.
2. As the cappuccino of the world I resolve to be drinkable after 10 (cause I promise Italians, I am good at all times of the day! EVEN after dinner!)
3. As the cappuccino of the world I resolve to always offer a handle to hold.
4. As the cappuccino of the world I resolve to be the perfect companion to a sad soul. I know some days my foam isn't always foamy, and my espresso isn't always strong enough, but I vow to at least try and be better on these days.
5. As the cappuccino of the world I resolve to continue being the best damn thing to ever hit Rome. Rome may not have been built in a day, but I am positive that I am the one and only thing that truly kept them going through all of those days that it took to build it.

Happy New Year!

P.S. I did drink that cappuccino literally an hour into the new year...and yes. I loved ever second of it. Here's my resolution to my cappuccino : To continue drinking you until the moment my foot hits the first step on the plane back to America. I am not abandoning you yet cappuccino...Not in the least.