The tradition of the Italian breakfast: home, bar or Starbucks?
Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. How many times have we heard this phrase mentioned? Italian style, as tradition dictates by grandmother, quick at the bar or in the cafes of great American brands, everyone can choose their own style.
Italian grandmothers cared about kid’s breakfast in a special way. Hearty breakfast to face the day: bread, butter and jam, milk and barley or chocolate. Caffellatte and biscuits or homemade cakes, have been, for centuries, the ideal breakfast of Italians. Unfortunately, almost all of us said goodbye to Grandma’s genuine breakfasts in the eighties. The new lifestyles, advertised by persuasive television commercials, praising snacks and industrial biscuits, did the rest. Then came the fashions overseas, breakfast cereals and approximate habits. Always at the expense of nutritional quality. Until you reach the death of the homemade breakfast: a quick cup of coffee at home, followed by a quick breakfast at the coffee house.
Coffee is the awakening drink par excellence. For many, including the writer, it is almost impossible to face the day without a coffee, indeed. This fascinating drink is, actually, an extract from the powder of a seed, which bears its own name. A Middle Eastern drink of ancient origins that began to spread in Europe only from the seventeenth century. It seems that Venetian traders are mainly responsible for the introduction of coffee. Initially consumed as a digestive medicine and then slowly established itself as a drink. Thus were born the coffee shops, some of which still resist over time, such as Caffè Florian in Venice, Caffè Greco in Rome, Gilli in Florence, Cova in Milan and Gambrinus in Naples.
Historic cafes and modern cafes
Coffee houses became not only entertainment and refreshment venues, but gathering places and cultural circles. Frequented by high society and the bourgeoisie, by intellectuals and artists, the Cafés lived their golden age between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. Not only in Italy, but also in other European countries, and even in America. It is a tasty curiosity that the first and most important New York coffee shop, the Tontine Coffee House became the original home of the New York Stock Exchange. Precisely because the cafeteria had become a meeting place for businessmen and business exchange. In Italy there are thousands if not millions of cafes, commonly called bars. Places where you essentially consume, quickly espresso and cappuccino, you have breakfast or you eat a quick lunch with a panino sandwich or a tramezzino sandwich.
And Starbucks finally is in Rome
Differently from Italian ones, the american-style cafeterias are hybrid places, offering an immense variety of products and services. Everyone stops there, sometimes indulging for hours. You can see businessman taking a break as well as students using the wifi network for their devices. The Starbucks model that so fascinates Italian xenophiles finally landed to Rome. Absolutely convinced of the superiority of the Italian-style, many would have bet on the impossibility of the realization of the project. But, not only Starbucks opened, a few steps from Montecitorio, but it was stormed by Italians and foreigners. For Italians, in fact, it represents a cosmopolitan lifestyle icon. For foreigners, who often do not appreciate our espresso, that is a way to find their home far from home. Even in Rome then: American coffee to go and King-sized cappuccinos for the American-Italian breakfast.
The Italian cappuccino
Cappuccino is a product of the Italian cafeteria based on espresso coffee and fresh whole milk. It must be prepared specifically with 2.5 cl of espresso and 10-15 cl of fresh whipped cream milk. It is served strictly in a 200cl porcelain cup. To prepare it to perfection requires hours of training and precision. Not everyone knows that there is an official temperature at which milk must be whipped that varies between 55 and 60 degrees at most. Asking for a hot cappuccino at the bar is, of course, possible and you are satisfied. However, it is not advisable, excessively hot milk, in fact, binds to caffeine making the cappuccino somewhat indigestible. Last note, more and more in demand is the special milk, from lactose-free to that of vegetable origin.
Cappuccino? Yes! but only before 11.00 in the morning
Nutritionists almost all agree: protein, low sugar and simple carbohydrates, maybe fruit would be the best options. And a large part of the population follows these indications, compulsively embracing a new diet every six months. Despite this, the Italian breakfast preferred by most of our compatriots takes place outside the home and takes the form of cappuccino and croissant. Cappuccino is undoubtedly, one of the Italian comfort foods. Famous all over the world and drunk at all hours in almost every country in the world, except Rome. Tradition has it, in fact, that in Rome the cappuccino is drunk only by 11 am. The origin of this habit is unknown. Although there are some very interesting hypotheses on the subject, which we will discuss another time.
A legend is born
Clearly, as in the best of traditions, the birth of the cappuccino is shrouded in mystery and legends. One of the most famous concerns Marco d’Aviano, a Capuchin friar who had participated in the battle of Wien in 1683. This monk had tasted coffee for the first time in a shop. The coffee was prepared with the beans left by the Turks en route at the dawn of their defeat. The monk, finding the coffee too bitter, had lengthened it with milk inventing, in fact, the cappuccino. Another legend always links him to the monks, referring to his color or, even, to the cleric. However, none of these legends has a historical foundation, so we can choose the one we prefer.
Cappuccino and croissant perfect combination
As someone knows, the episode of the end of the Ottoman siege of the city of Vienna also marks the birth of the croissant. That is, the leavened pastry celebrating the victory against the crescent, symbol of the Ottomans. Strangely, cappuccino and cornetto are sharing a similar legend around their birth. Differently from french croissants, the italian ones contains less butter and looks more as a sweet bread.
What about grandma’s breakfast at the bar?
This is a splendid idea. Indeed, know that there is already a wonderful cafeteria in Rome that offers in its menu the possibility to request it. Coffee brewed with the famous coffee pot (moka caffettiera for locals) bread and ricotta with fresh fruit. We are talking about the new born of Raimondo Ricci: Emporio Sant’Eustachio, in Via della Maddalena, Pantheon area in Rome. The newborn cafè following the elder and historical Sant’Eustachio in the homonymous square.