Saturday, August 7, 2010

Roma - Caffe!

Italy in general is a coffee country, but even more so, Rome is a coffee town.  There is a tremendous amount of great coffee in Rome.  You will be better off having your coffee during the day at a bar, instead of in a restaurant, or in your hotel.  "Bar" is the generic term for coffee bars in Rome.  Most bars will have digestivi available as well as coffee.  Some will have more food than others.

First a very brief rundown of coffee culture in Italy.  1.  Espresso is referred to as "caffe."  There really is no such thing in Italian coffee bars as American coffee.  You can order an Americano (espresso made long with water) if you want something close.  2.  Cappucino is only drunk in the morning.  Generally, before 11AM.  Feel free to order it later, but you will be judged and perhaps jokingly referred to as "German."  Also, Italians never drink cappucino after a meal, as they feel that milk is bad for digestion.  For many Italians, cappucino is breakfast, along with some bread, and fruit.  3.  At most of the bars, look for a cashier near the door.  You will tell the cashier what you want and pay for it there.  Then you will go to the bar, and order again from the barista.  Give him the receipt.  It is nice to leave some coins for a tip.  4.  The Italian way is to drink your coffee standing at the bar.  If a bar has tables, you will order at the table from a waiter and be charged a higher price.

Below, I will discuss 2 of the most famous bars in Rome, as well as one I found on the last trip that was really nice.

Very fortuitously, two most famous bars in Rome are located within a stones throw of the Pantheon.  It is quite possible to do both in one shot if you can handle the jolt.  I will discuss both, before revealing my favorite.

Caffe Sant'Eustachio
Piazza Sant'Eustcachio , 82

Sant'Eustachio is a little tricky to find the first time, but once you have found it, you will never have a problem again.  When facing the entrance to the pantheon, like the in the picture below, walk to the side street that runs along the right side of the building.  Perpendicular to this, you will see a small side street called Piazza Sant'Eustachio.  If in doubt, ask any Roman and they will point you in the right direction.

Once you get to the end of the street, you will see a little shop on this tiny piazza, that is absolutely mobbed.  We went there on a Sunday in January 2010, the place was packed to the gills with Italians who were enjoying the day.  It was a scrum to get to the cashier, and then a scrum to get to the bar, but it was a lot of fun as always.  You can see in the picture below, that the line snakes outside the door.

The house specialty is the "gran caffe."  This is a frothy, sweetened, double espresso.  No one knows exactly how they make this, and they would like to keep it that way.  There is a metal divider that blocks the espresso machine from the side, so you can't tell what they are doing when they make the coffee.  A gran caffe is pictured below.

I find the gran caffe a little sweet, but it is definitely very good.  The texture is very frothy, and a is hauntingly good.  If you want the gran caffe without out sugar, you can order it "senza zucchero."  They sell bags of coffee, and nice souvenirs as well.  Don't forget a back for me, your culinary advisor!

Tazza d'Oro

If you look left, when facing the pantheon (the same picture from above) you will be able to see Tazza d'Oro.  Tazza d'oro means cup of gold.

This is a larger bar than Sant Eustachio.  It feels more like a real working bar that is for the Romans.  Tazza d'oro has been in the same spot roasting there coffee on site since the 40's.  They actually have a second location in Fiumucino airport.  If you are lucky enough to arrive through that gate, get yourself a cafe, and you will know that you are in Rome.  Tazza d'oro also has some nice souvenirs.  Be sure to check out the roaster on the left side of the shop.

A picture of an espresso is below.

In truth, this is my preferred of the 2 bars.  I like that it a real working bar for romans.  The espresso is fantastic, and it is a little less of a hassle as it is bigger.  But, if you are a coffee fan, definitely try both!

Via Sardegna, 9/21

On our last trip in 2009 I found a bar somewhat near our hotel that was definitely worth the walk.  Our hotel, the Hotel Eden, was in the Via Veneto area, where a lot of hotels are located.  The owner was a very nice woman, who worked the cash register each time I was there.  If you can find a bar of this quality near your hotel, you are in business.  This is the perfect way to start the day for breakfast.

Pictured above is my breakfast from the day I went.  Un caffe, uno cornetto and una spremuta di arancia.  Cornetto is the Italian version of a croissant, the cafe is self explanatory, and the spremuta is another Italian treat.  Most good bars will sell succa di arancia as well as spremuta di arancia.  Succa do arancia is regular orange juice, while spremuta is squeezed on premises.  The spremuta is a little pricey, but definitely worth the extra charge.

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