When it is hot in Italy, you want to order a “caffe freddo” (cold coffee) which is sort of like a coffee milkshake. It’s a bit confusing because it is not a “frappe” which is a different drink. I include a photo here so that you can see that a frappe is a coffee which is frothed to the point where it has a frappe/froth/head on top. A caffe freddo has milk added, a frappe does not.
When you see the slush machines spinning with coffee colored caffe freddo, you know that summer has arrived. A caffe freddo is different from an iced coffee or milkshake.
As an aside, the milkshakes in Italy are quite liquid and not unlike a caffe freddo except that they are not always as cold. Also, you can get a milkshake most of the year but caffe freddo is a summer thing.
It so transpired that I got an insiders’ list of a different kind. Through a cousin of a former colleague’s colleague, I was sent a list of recommendations of, “names of restaurants and trendy places attended by upper class and local inhabitants.” Not all these places are upscale.
At the restaurant Quinto Roma, you can eat in igloos.
Il Datterino Giallo, Piazza Ledro: “Il Datterino Giallo, vi propone una cucina genuina e verace, al contempo sana e molto attuale, in un ambiente sofisticato ma non troppo, un mix di arredo tra il provenzale e l’industriale in una ‘location’ prestigiosa come quella del quartiere romano…” translates to: … offers traditional Italian cuisine, Mediterranean, at the same time innovative, in a welcoming location, inspired by a hybrid style between Provencal and industrial… in a prestigious location of Rome.
I have not been to any of these places. If you go, let me know how it was.
As I have done in previous cities that I have called home, at some point, I write about the less than delightful things about daily life (Dhaka, Bogota, and Lima). For Rome, since the honeymoon is over (I’m no longer charmed), I’ve decided to write about a combination of surprising and annoying things. Mostly, it’s just surprising things.
Small breakfasts: Romans like an espresso and a croissant for breakfast. Or coffee with milk like a cappuccino. I’m surprised at how easy it becomes to getting used to drinking espresso (a “caffe” is an espresso by default), all day long. Most Italians use sugar so in a way it’s like a power bar every few hours. I prefer no sugar… just the bitter coffee…
Cookies: for breakfast. Even savory ones. It’s also easy to grow accustomed to eating a cornetto (croissant) every morning. Or a pizza, keeping in mind that pizza is not pizza as one thinks of pizza.
Pizza: pizza is doesn’t always have cheese, and pizza is a breakfast item.
Raw seafood and meat: on everything. Shrimp is the most “gringo friendly” but there is raw octopus, raw sea bass, raw everything on pasta. Even raw meat.
Greens: green vegetables that I’ve never heard of. And they all seem to be bitter.
Drinking fountains: are everywhere. They are called “nasone” (nay-so-neh) and most flow all day long. So you only need one bottle. The reason they flow all the time is to keep the pipes free of bacteria.
Cost of Internet: Under 30 euro for mine. Internet and cell phone service is not very expensive.
Bureaucracy: Getting service for anything from a bank account to setting up Internet and so on, can be a hassle.
Venetian blinds on the outside of the window.
Lack of public toilets: In Rome, you need to grab a coffee or eat at a restaurant to use the toilet. See my article about bidets to understand why you may find a bidet in every bathroom. One can flush the toilet paper in the toilet in Rome, but as you can see from the photo, sometimes, it’s best not to.
The crowds: Normally, there would be a few million people visiting Rome at any moment. If one lives in the tourist center part of Rome, one has to “go with flow” of the crowd when walking.
The customer service: one has to figure out how to navigate some places. The more touristy, the worse it is.
Tipping: One really doesn’t have to do it because it’s adding as a service fee. If you are American, they may expect you to tip.
Whipped cream: It seems like it’s on everything. But it’s not served in a pretty way, just applied with a spoon or spatula. I like that it’s offered at gelaterias.
So while the honeymoon period is over, it’s not all bad.
****Update August 9, 2022****** I have learned that the small glass of water with your coffee is for BEFORE your coffee — as a palate cleanser.
In Italy, every coffee bar/cafe, has a different brand of coffee. Why? Because they get their dishware etc. sponsored by the brand. If you only drink a certain brand of coffee, then you have to drink at a certain cafe.
While coffee beans are not grown in Italy, the Italians are quite obsessed with coffee. But it’s not a fashion item. It’s more that they drink espressos all day long, at about a rate of one every few hours. It’s a social event as well so if someone says, “shall we have a coffee?” then they are inviting you to be sociable.
A “caffe” is by default an espresso. One way to tell if you have become a local is if the barista assumes that you mean an espresso when you order a “caffe” — rather than double checking with you that it’s an espresso that you want and not an “americano” (which is an espresso with hot water added).
I’ve had many awful cups of espresso here so far and some are okay ones. I prefer them without sugar so I can actually taste the coffee. Italians almost always add sugar. It’s like the equivalent of a Redbull. A shot of caffeine to get you through the next couple of hours. An espresso has half the caffeine of a cup of filtered drip coffee. The key is to drink the espresso quickly and chase it with a glass of water or a sweet baked item.
Coffee was introduced to Europe through Venice a few centuries ago and the oldest coffee shop, Cafe Florian, is still in business in Venice. The second oldest, Antico Cafe Greco, is in Rome, right by the Spanish Steps.
As for Starbucks, there is one in Milan. Or go to Seattle for them, and enjoy the many types of coffee in Italy when you are in Italy.
If you want to binge on watching videos about Italy, here are some I’ve found. Mostly on food. Mostly about Rome. I will not list all of them as there are too many, but a few that will give you some leads to follow.
Rick Stein is one of my favorite TV chef presenters. The thinking chef’s chef. Here in Corsica and Sardinia.
Floyd was a chef who had a good time, this time in Liguria.
If you want months worth of binge watching, Rick Steves provides! Rick Steves has eight hours of free TV shows on Italy alone! He also has free audio tours, apps, books, etc. He is much raunchier on his audio tours! If you want a private guide in your ear, he has those! If you just want to watch him give good advice, watch him here.
Colazione (breakfast): Breakfast is a cup of coffee with milk like a cappuccino. Maybe a croissant or a sandwich (triangular white sandwiches like the triples in Peru). Italians don’t really eat much for breakfast. They consider the milk in the coffee to be the “food.” But, later in the morning, they will have more coffee. Coffee is a small cup of coffee like an espresso. No coffee in Italy is ever the size of American coffees. Italians will have many coffees throughout the day, although milk in coffee is only for breakfast (so before 11 a.m.).
Around 10 or 11 a.m., Italians might have a small snack with their next coffee.
Pranzo (lunch): Lunch is generally eaten from noon to 2 p.m. but on a Sunday, lunch can be later.
Merenda (tea): At around 3 p.m., Italians (and certainly children) will have a snack. One could have a gelato… or some crackers and cheese.
Aperitivo (happy hour): after work, Italians may have a tapas/mezze style spread. Many judge the bar based on the selection of free nibbles. During the current COVID restrictions (restaurants close for in restaurant dining at 6 p.m.), many people are having aperitivo at 3 p.m. Why not?
Cena “che-na” (dinner): Dinner is generally at 8:30 p.m. or later. One had a snack earlier, thankfully.
No that you have done Machu Picchu, you want to do the next big thing… Kuelap, the Gocta Waterfall, and so on. Then, the question is where to stay. The secret, secret, place to stay in Gocta… no, not that one… is… Gocta Natura. But only if you like “natural” and bohemian (and no WIFI). This small organization will give you ALL the FEELS. Warm, fuzzy, friendly. Gocta Natura has five cabins in the woods overlooking the waterfall. The price is per person and they employ a gourmet chef. Like I said, ALL. THE. FEELS. You’re gonna love it. If you like rustic, eco-friendly. If not, stay at the famous Gocta Lodge hotel located up the hill behind Gocta Natura. (Note: I have not stayed at either of the Goctas. This is just based on the rave reviews of someone I know who is “in the know”.). To see the waterfall up close, you can ride a horse for part of the hike, as it may be hot and sweaty. Then, once you have seen “the nature,” you get to go back to your peaceful cabin and enjoy gourmet cuisine.
The closest village to Gocta Waterfall is Cocachimba. It’s got a village green and the village doesn’t seem to consist of more than the buildings surrounding the green. The Gocta Lodge is at the end of the village behind a high wall. To get to the Gocta Natura, you have to walk the path on the way to the waterfall. Cocachimba’s altitude is 4,000 feet above sea level, making this village a better place to sleep if you suffer from altitude sickness. Chachapoyas is at 7,600 feet (2,300 meters) and Kuelap is 10,000 (3,000 meters).
I liked the drive up to the village of Cocachimba. Amazing views and amazing coffee. All along the road, locals were drying their coffee beans on tarps spread out in front of their houses. At one of the village restaurants, I had a delicious mug of coffee. When I asked what brand they had used, they explained that it was their own coffee, from their own beans, from their own tree. They weren’t showing off.
The photo of the fighting cocks was taken at a spot along the road to Cocachimba that had a spectacular view of Gocta waterfall. When I saw the location of the cages, I wondered why the owner of that house didn’t open a B&B in that location. I would think that tourists are a better source of income… and with fewer feathers?
I organized a coffee tasting with the guys from Artidoro Rodriguez coffee. After five hours of learning about coffee and drinking coffee, I was too caffeinated to write this blog posting… I realized how little I know about coffee. For the food geeks, there is a coffee tasting certification class in Lima (one week for eight months–not sure why they don’t do a two month class). Anyway, back to what I didn’t know…. Notice in the photo below that there is some magical ratio of weight of ground coffee to water at a certain temperature (I think this is why the Brits say, “water from a freshly boiled kettle”).
The coffee tasting class cost 100 soles (about $30) per person. It was planned from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. but we got a five hour class, freebies, coffee (duh!) and so much info that I had a buzz not solely from the coffee! The owners, Felix and Julian, are experts in tasting and roasting respectively. Felix is the grandson of Artidoro Rodriguez so a legend in the making (Juan Valdez was made up by marketeers!). You heard it here!
I set up the class with Julian via email. The class was in Spanish as Felix feels more comfortable in Spanish. Julian’s English is good so he translated when he could. Plus, I had my secret superpower with me (a bilingual friend who is professional level simultaneous translator level, and a subject matter expert to boot!). We tried more than ten brands of coffee and around six methods of making coffee. As it was a tasting, we could choose to not swallow the coffee and spittoons were provided… but I drank the coffee (hence the buzz).
We learned so much that I can’t recall most of it. But, there are two types of coffee beans and Peru has lots of areas where both kinds (robusta and arabica) of beans can be grown to produce gourmet coffee. We learned about weighing our coffee when we make it. We learned that there is a coffee grading scale from zero to 100 points. 80 or above is gourmet. Aridoro Rodriguez is 84 (no shame in that!). Coffee from 60 to 80 is commercial coffee. Below 60… fuggedaboutit. We learned that shiny beans are no good. Shiny beans have been over roasted, one way to compensate for deficiencies. Notice the shiny burned look of the two groups in the photo below. The smallest bunch of beans are roasted correctly. No oily sheen. Just a healthy luster.
We learned that slurping is good when tasting coffee. We looked at runty beans called “snails” and how they are picked out as a specialty. Just smaller, uglier, but with equal potential (some deep zen going on here, amiright?).
We learned that beans need to be separated before roasting so they roast at the same degree. That it’s a matter of seconds from the “first pop” of the first bean roasting to the full on fireworks of popping, and, that in those ten seconds, the coffee roaster can make or destroy a batch of coffee. A roast lasts around eight minutes but I can’t recall the exact details. We also learned that after roasting, coffee grounds should “exhale” for eight hours before being used to brew coffee. We learned about “fragrance” and “aroma” and all the other ways to know one’s coffee. We even learned about coffee “tea” (see raisin-like things next to weak cup of liquid in photo below), and then our minds were blown.
We learned even more. About people, livelihoods, the environment, pride in product, taste, and that Felix and Julian are looking to open up a coffee bar somewhere in Miraflores. We learned of the coffee places approved of by Felix. We sniffed… we sipped… we giggled… we roared with laughter… we… take the class! Learn. Get caffeinated. Get mo’ on joe!
The key point that Felix told us was… no two cups of coffee will be the same… each cup is as individual… as an individual…
O-M-ega. This just got deep.
Drink up, my friends, may your cup runneth over. In the best of company.
Recently, I organized a coffee class tasting at Artidoro Rodriguez (I’ll write about that another time, once the caffeine has worn off. But, if you want a foretaste, read about how gourmet coffee is a hot item (!!!) in Peru.). Felix of Artidoro Rodriguez is an expert coffee taster (a different skill from being an expert roaster). Naturally, we asked Felix where he drinks coffee in Lima, and he told us his list of where to drink gourmet coffee (gourmet coffee is coffee with a grade of more than 80 on the 100 point scale. Don’t ask about coffee below 60 — okay, okay, more about that another time). Now, I need a cup of Joe. Gourmet Joe!
La Teoría de 6 Cafés, Calle Gral Mendiburu 890, Miraflores: They have cold brewed coffee as well (there is more caffeine in cold brew). Felix, the coffee roaster of Artidoro Rodriguez coffee (and grandson of Artidoro), may be biased as he is friends with the folks at this cafe (or did they become friends over a cup of coffee?). Note in the photo below that this cafe serves cold brew with orange juice along with other hipster coffee trends.
Milimétrica Espresso Bar, Av. la Paz 580, Miraflores: The link from Beanhunters provides lists of where to drink gourmet coffee around the world.
Colonia & Co, Av San Martin 131, Barranco: From the photos, it looks like they even have a real hipster with a manbun working here.
Caleta Dolsa, Av San Martin 223, Barranco (couldn’t find a link on the cafe so inside I include one of the area including a tip on a hotel to stay in): this place is only a few months old. It’s located in a sunken (basement) space.
Breakfast is one of my favorite meals (well, so are: brunch, elevenses, lunch, sobremesa, linner, high tea, supper, dinner, natmad “nightmeal”, and stumble-home-greasy-and-spicy-mouthful…). Some people consider eggs to be a vital part of a “breakfast” and others consider a piece of bread dipped in coffee to be the start to the day. In some countries, soup is it. In Vietnam, it’s pho (as in my photo from New Mexico, USA) and in Colombia, it’s a broth with rib meat and potatoes. In China and Thailand, the breakfast “oatmeal” is a rice porridge soup… I hereby advocate for more soup for breakfast!
Located on the Panamerican highway at kilometer marker 52 on the road south of Lima, this bakery is a great pit stop for breakfast. It’s called Tambo Rural (tambo is the indigenous word for kiosk) and there is no sign so you just have to pay attention and turn in at marker 52. They now have a real dirt driveway and expanded parking lot so it’s much easier to stop off the highway.
The coffee is amazingly creamy.
Speaking of breakfast, they sell chicharron which they cook in the wood fired oven (how is that for mind blowing!?), a breakfast item in Peru.
They sell bread that you can buy to take with you including photogenic focaccia.
They have toilets which work on a “bucket of water” flush system.
This place is not super fancy but it is good and covers all the bases. It’s not a secret either but TripAdvisor reviews are only in Spanish.
I enjoyed the fresh warm rolls, some filled with ham (turkey ham) and cheese, and some with olives and oregano. Plus that locally sources coffee. Yum. Great way to start a day and a trip. Go! Enjoy!
I can’t leave Bogota without mentioning coffee. Coffee shops are very popular here. Some of the famous brands of coffee are Juan Valdez, Oma, Amor Perfecto, and lesser know is Bourbon, but it gets confusing because some of the coffee shops use other brands but make the coffee so well that your experience will be changed! One of those places is in the Hilton on 7th Avenue. The barista certainly takes a long time to make your coffee (including asking you how you want it – percolated, drip, etc. etc.) and it is nice. But not good if you actually just need a cup of coffee. The cafe looks like a 1920s location so the decor is appealing as well. I like Bourbon, both for their coffee and their cafe. And the fact that they make coffee with almond milk, for those who care about that sort of thing.
But, the best bakery is Arbol del Pan (Calle 66 Bis, #4-63: they are located up near Gordo and La Fama, on a street parallel to La Fama). Their coffee is okay but it’s their breads that are the best. Plus, they are open for breakfast. They make a poached egg, asparagus and prosciutto croissant that is delectable. This is not to say that I don’t still enjoy Eric Kaiser and Masa’s products. But, I think I like Arbol’s almond croissant best. On top of which, the staff speak English and the owner has one of those great back stories (architect decides to become baker… and it’s a woman-owned business, for those who care about that sort of thing!).