What is the typical Italian breakfast made of? Discover the delicious elements of the traditional Italian breakfast and their surprising origin.
I know the theory: breakfast is the most important meal of the day, you should never skip it and you should favour fruit, water, low GI carbs and lean proteins. But I also know myself, at least when it comes to taste buds, and I know that my ideal breakfast is very far from this vision of vitamins and health.
Left to my own instincts, the breakfast I love and crave is this:
Welcome to the wonderful world of refined sugars, coffee, full-fat milk and the pure unadulterated pleasure of colazione all’italiana (Italian style breakfast): cappuccino e cornetto, rigorously al bar.
Typical Italian breakfast: la colazione al bar
Cappuccino e cornetto are to me one of the most pleasurable ways to start the day and one of those habits that I have raised to the status of tradition. Whenever I am in Italy, at some stage during the morning, I head to the bar and get my sugar fix, usually following this little ritual taking a picture of the cappuccino in question and with a tweet to share with the world how amazing mornings in Italy are.
La colazione al bar (breakfast at the cafe), a little bit like aperitivo, is one of those things that just do not export well. No French croissant can compete, for me, with cornetto and no Italian-style cafe abroad seems able to recreate the special atmosphere that you have in the mornings in Italy: the people standing at the tall bar, the clinking of cups and glasses, the wise eyes of the barista who remember exactly how each customer likes their coffee – in a glass, in a cup, with warm milk, with hot milk, with cold milk – and who are perfectly aware that to get it right or wrong will impact on the mood of the person for the rest of the day.
All about cappuccino and cornetto
Because of the Italian-ness (excuse the neologism) of this colazione, I was pretty surprised when I read that actually neither cappuccino nor cornetto were born in Italy, but rather in Vienna.
Tradition tells us that coffee was known in Europe more or less since the XVI century, but it started to become popular later than that, around the year of the battle of Vienna: 1683.
Apparently, around those time, the Viennese learnt how to make toasted coffee into a drink and started selling it in coffee-houses, giving birth to a cafe culture that is still very much alive. Originally the coffee was only served black, but one day a Capuchin friar by the name of Marco D’Aviano had the idea of adding some milk to it: he found the taste of the pure coffee just too strong and this was his way to make it milder.
The Viennese barista, exactly like the ones in Italy now, learnt quickly his preference and gave this drink the name Kapuziner(the drink of the Capuchin friar, whose flock was the same colour as the drink itself), which became his drink of choice as well as the drink of choice of many many generations after him.
Along with coffee and cappuccino, the coffee houses used to serve also a Kipfler, a special kind of pastry that had the shape of a crescent and that was created to remember and celebrate the victory against the Ottoman Empire. The kipfler is now what in Italy is known as cornetto.
Both coffee and kipfler/cornetto quickly spread around Europe, finding many supporters along the way but also many detractors. In particular, it seems like the city of Venice was divided over the beverage: some people loved it, but others thought it was a creation of the devil and called it no less than ‘the bitter invention of Satan’. The controversy was far from just a folkloric disagreement and the local clergy decided to involve the Pope to put the problem to rest.
The Pope in question was Clemente VIII: he was not known for his mild views (he is the Pope who condemned Giordano Bruno and Beatrice Cenci) and so I imagine the clergy of the time thought his intervention would put an end to the diffusion of satanic coffee once and for all.
But instead, the opposite happened: history tells us that to make his mind up Clemente VIII tasted the coffee, loved it and gave it the Papal seal of approval.
If only he showed the same open-mindedness when it came to freedom of speech and scientific thought, history might have taken some different turns, but I guess I should be happy that at least when it comes to coffee his legacy was a positive one.
I like my cappuccino sweet and not too hot. How do you like YOUR coffee?
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