Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is prepare my mocha (a big one, all for myself) and wait for the aroma of coffee to spread in the kitchen and for the typical noise, here called fischio (whistle), that lets me know my drink is ready. That sound is so familiar to us Italians that when someone is grumbling/muttering, we say 'non fare la caffettiera' (don't do like the mocha).
In general, in Italy coffee is a real ritual. When I was at university I used to work part-time at Pasticceria Dolce Vita, a coffee bar in Rialto, and can confirm that everyone has their own habits. In an Italian bar, don't expect people to order just a simple espresso, we have lungo (long), ristretto (short), macchiato caldo/freddo con/senza schiuma (stained with hot or cold milk with or without foam), macchiatone (a half way between a capuccino and a macchiato), marocchino (Moroccan, which is an espresso with cocoa, milk foam, and more cocoa) cappuccino, caffelatte (latte) and decaf. Not to mention the parallel universe of coffee alternatives like barley, ginseng, chicory and, from a couple of years, all the plant-based milk options.
What is often noticed is that we Italians sip down our coffee standing and quite quickly, before running away to do something else. I suppose it's because this gesture represents a sort of 'meditative' break, a moment of detachment from whatever activity we were engaged in, something like a yoga class.
Personally, I think that most bars in Italy serve good coffee, even the ones where you wouldn't dare eat a pastry even if under torture. The important thing is the machine, how it is regulated on the basis of the level of humidity, and how much it is used. As you may imagine, the more, the better, in fact, anyone who has worked in a bar will tell you that the first thing they do when they open is make a couple of coffees and throw them away, to prepare the machine and make a more intense coffee. Also, when we buy a new mocha, we usually make a few coffees before actually drinking one and would never dream of using soap to clean the filter.
When Vito and I are both at home, we like to go to Rosa Salva (either in Calle Fiubera or in San Giovanni e Paolo), take our time and read the papers while eating a breakfast based on croissants, coffee and milk. In summer, we sometimes replace the espresso with a cold ice-cream-like cup of coffee, while in winter I go for the small cup of hot chocolate. Occasionally, with Vito we also go to the cafeterias of three museums: Ca' Pesaro and Ca' Rezzonico, both overlooking the Grand Canal, and the one of the Correr in Piazza San Marco, whit a view over the square and the Basilica. It's not necessary to purchase the ticket to the museum if you only want to go to the bar (although you may want to consider it!).
When I meet my friends, instead, my favourite options are Torrefazione Cannaregio, which has recently moved to F.ta degli Ormesini and, in addition to a notable variety of quality coffee, also offers indoor seating and sweet and savoury bites, Caffè la Serra at Giardini, mostly for the location and the friendly atmosphere, We Crociferi, where I love both the indoor with its columns, red brick walls, maps and posters, and the outdoor cloister, while in Rialto I often go to Caffè del Doge (great for gifts and coffee to buy) and Caffè Vergnano, with a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal.
By the way, Venice was one of the first European cities to import coffee. It was brought from the Orient by some sailors and it was considered as a spice and sold at very high prices. It became fashionable very soon and in 1683 the first Bottega del Caffè opened in Saint Mark's: it was the Caffè Florian. I don't go to the cafe that often, but I have to say it is a treat I do sometimes allow myself, especially if a foreign friend is visiting. I never sit outside, either I stay at the counter or I sit in one of the interior rooms and simply enjoy the atmosphere.
Going back to us and our coffee, how do you like it? My mother, for example, is more of a tea person and when she drinks coffee it's usually instant coffee with a few drops of milk, while, as previously mentioned, I have a big mocha in the morning and maybe one or two espressos during the day. What I particularly like about coffee is its bitter and creamy aftertaste and absolutely love it in desserts. The recipe I'm sharing today is extremely simple, but rich in taste: a coffee and cocoa cake with rolled oats, pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds, perfect for breakfast.
Please note that the recipe below is not very sweet. If you prefer a sweeter flavour, just add 50 grams more of brown sugar. As for the oven, I use a small electrical oven, so you may have to adjust the time a little. I thought this coffee and cocoa cake was delicious and had it with a few tea spoons of cherry jam aside, while Vito accompanied it with coffee flavoured yogurt and topped it with extra cocoa. Let me know if you like it!
RECIPE: EASY COFFEE and COCOA CAKE
(vegan; low in sugar; high in flavour)
Prep. Time: 10'
Cook Time: 35/40'
Yields: 8 slices