by Maria Liberati on 18/12/07 at 5:41 am
Celebrity Chef/Gourmand World Award Winning Author Maria Liberati shares some tips from her award winning book series. For more stores, recipes and tips from the book series join 100,000 worldwide subscribers at The Basic Art of Italian Cooking by Maria Liberati tm BLOG at www.marialiberati.com.
How can you describe a sunny Sunday afternoon in Rome? It brings to mind the Italian saying “e dolce far niente” (how sweet it is to do nothing). It is an afternoon of doing nothing … in a special way!
One of the great pleasures of Roman life is to sip a coffee at one of the elegant coffee bars and watch the world go by. But you can build your whole afternoon around that espresso … from the wonderful journey to the coffee bar to the arrival to your selection of seating or standing and your careful selection of beverage.
My favorite Sundays spent in Rome is a trip to via Via Condotti to Antico Caffe Greco.
Via Condotti is located in the centro storico- or the historic center- is a display of the finest not only Italian but European style. Who says that food and fashion have nothing in common? In Rome it is fashionably chic to get dressed up in the afternoon for this stroll or as we call it “paseggiata” (stroll or walk) and present a “bella figura”(dressed in your best) and stroll to one of Rome’s most elegant of coffee houses.
I have always observed that everything in Italy is set out like an opera- even daily life and my afternoon is not finished until the final act has occurred- and what a beautiful final act- that is my cup of espresso to end my afternoon or evening.
The Italian painter from the early 1900’s- Giorgio De Chirico described the Antico Caffe Greco best- Il Caffe Greco e l’unico posto al mondo dove sedersi e aspettare la fine- translated means- “It is the only place in the world where one sits and waits for the end”
The oldest, and the most elegant café in Rome, Café Greco has no competition in that respect. This café has earned its distinguished place in Rome’s history centuries ago and it is filled with an aura, mystery as wondrous as the geniuses who gathered there.
‘Imaginary’ (imagine) for a minute- an elegant salon filled with the most creative geniuses from around the world that have left in some way their mark, their creations and spent a large part of their life here..
As we say: ”Incredibile”
Antico Caffe Greco’s former patrons reads like a who’s who- from Berlioz , Buffalo Bill, Dickens, Goethe, Hawthorne, Humperdinck, Keats, Liszt, Lord Byron, Mendelssohn, Stendhal, Twain, Wagner, Wells. To think Hans Christian Andersen lived upstairs….Rossini composed here..you can just hear it when you sit and sip your day away.
But at Antico Caffe Greco you don’t stand at the counter here. You see, this is not your typical bar. One sits here in an elegantly upholstered chair, all the more reason to sip and imagine you being one of the turn of the century intellectuals or “glitterati.” For in that period, coffee was known as the beverage of intellectuals.
A famous saying in Rome is that ”there are 2 types of people in the world: espresso drinkers and non-espresso drinkers,” referring to how serious Italians take their coffee, as they consume 14 billion cups of espresso per year. So when you go to Italy, be sure that you are recognized as an espresso drinker.
Some tips for ordering coffee in Italy:
Caffe Corretto- espresso with a shot of grappa
Caffe Macchiato- (literally means- coffee with a mark- referring to the milk) – so this is an espresso with a 1-2 tablespoons of frothy milk
Cappuccino- real espresso drinkers know that in Italy we only drink this in the morning. It is typically 1/3 espresso and 2/3 frothy milk.
Not to be confused with…
Caffe Latte- which is espresso with steamed not frothed milk. It is usually a double shot of espresso (3 ozs) with 5 ozs. Steamed milk.
Mocha Cappuccino- 1/3 espresso, 2/3 frothed milk, but the finest cocoa powder is mixed into the espresso along with a spoon of sugar before it is topped with frothed milk.
Americanino- if you must get the tradition al American- you will be served a shot of espresso in a large cup with another small pitcher of hot water, so you can make it “lungo” long- as they say. However, in Italy they are so used to Americans asking for this that at some bars if they detect an American accent they will serve this to you automatically.