Hmmm, maybe I should really call this Coffee Etiquette or “How Not To Be An Obvious Tourist.” We all know the adage – “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” Well, we know it, we’ve heard it and we may have even spouted it, but do we do it???? Those silly ladies in tube tops and short shorts who want to see Italian Cathedrals don’t do it and sometimes – gulp – this is embarrassing – even the folks who come to see me here in this little Italian village don’t do it. They don’t do as the Romans do – they want to drink cappuccino after lunch or dinner!!!!
In Italian restaurants, Jack and I giggle at people in the USA who order cappuccino after dinner. We know that Italians would never dare. That said, I still sometimes appear teary eyed at around 11:00 AM at Bar Elimar and in a soft, sad voice say to Marilina, “un cappuccino per favore.” The other day I really got in trouble –
Midge, said my favorite barista, ora è mezzogiorno (noon) – no cappuccino per te! It was time to review the rules. Marilina spouted them off –
- Capuccino is a breakfast drink. You do not drink it close to lunch. All that milk and primo piatto pasta do not mix! In Pontelandolofo no one orders a cappuccino after 10:30 A.M. I take that back – non-Italians do. This is not Starbucks country. It is a small village in Southern Italy with traditions that hearken back to the middle ages. Everyone here is shocked when I tell them that in the USA you can order a cappuccino anytime – even after dinner in an Italian restaurant. Try to order a cappuccino after dinner in a restaurant here and eyebrows will be raised, trays will drop to the floor, waiters will faint and diners will know you are an uninformed tourist.
- Caffé macchiato – that is a shot of espresso in a small cup with a small hit of steamed milk – is acceptable all day long. So I am thinking, why can’t you make me 4 of those and put them in a big cup???? “Midge,” says Jack, “don’t be a smart ass.”
- Caffé – espresso – is available 24/7! Folks stand at the bar before work and shoot back that succulent cup of caffeine. It is drunk all the time – after pranza – lunch, after cena – dinner, after you hang the laundry, after a fight with your kids. Caffé is immediately offered when you go to visit someone. Caffé is king.
- Un po di acqua – A small glass of water – frizzante o naturale – is often served with that cup of coffee. Do not be surprised if it appears on the bar without you asking.
- Zucchero? Jack and I are part of the minority. We do not put sugar in our coffee. At a bar, this is not a problem because the sugar is in packets. Visiting a home the sugar issue can be a problem. After the coffee has steamed up to the top, people often put the sugar right in the two tiered coffee pot. Then it is poured from the pot into the cups. When someone offers us a coffee we always say immediately, grazie, senza zucchero.
- You do not – I repeat – Do NOT – order a fruit juice and a coffee together! One or the other. Your stomach will appreciate it. I will admit, I misbehave and have often done this – I really like succo di arancia rossa. Maybe that is why I feel quesy ten minutes later.
- I love hearing this – “Hey do you have American Coffee?” This is Italy dumb-nut! At the bars they say yes and add hot water to espresso in a big cup. Ugggggg
- Caffè lungo is an espresso made with a tad more water – it still fits in the teeny, tiny cup. Lots of folks order those and tell me they are just a little less strong.
- Before bed it is OK to drink hot chocolate, camomilla, or a cappuccino. Now the milk helps you sleep. Zzzzzzzz
There you go. A quick guide to how not to look like a tourist, enjoy coffee where the beans are ground just before it is made, stand at the bar and enjoy la dolce vita.