Coffee is King, Especially When He’s Got No Clothes

Coffee Consciousness V – Don’t hide what you love

I am not coffee purist, although I do love my coffee black and unsweetened – be it Neapolitan espresso or good American brew. I feel that if I don’t enjoy it straight up, I’m not fully qualified to comment on coffee that is doctored up with milk, sugar, chocolate or whatever else they are offering.

Espresso a Scaturcchio

It goes the other way around, too. My grandfather would alway say you could tell a good ice cream parlor by it’s coffee ice cream. If it tasted like good coffee, you could trust everything else they made.

Please don’t take this as yet another attack on that giant international coffee bar giant – that’s not my goal here. Even though I am very critical of the whole concept of the place, that did that did not stop my daughter Emily and I from enjoying a chocolate and coffee concoction at atrium to the Louvre this summer. Similarly, my love for locally grown and cooked Italian food does not stop me from getting my Big Mac fix about once a month. It’s benchmarking for research.

Espresso, again

So even though I usually prefer coffee straight up and black, there are times when you want something a little different. Since when in Italy drinking a cappuccino in the afternoon or evening will instantly brand you as American, I suggest ordering a marocchino or veneziano (“moroccan” or “venetian” – the name changes depends on the town or bar) will get you around this. Usually served in little glass mugs and poured so that the coffee, chocolate and foamed milk are layered, it’s the afternoon pick-me-up that won’t buy you amused looks when you order.

Even in the birthplace of espresso, coffee companies and bars are on the lookout for new ways to get you to drink more, and the veneziano has blossomed into scores of other versions. Adding other aromas like cinnamon and liquor like sambuca and grappa have been around for ages, but I believe that the coffee has to stand out. Coffee is still king.
As I write this I have the good fortune of getting to spend a lot of time in Naples for work. Naples is one of Italy’s hardest but most beautiful cities, surrounded by a coastline (Sorrento and the Amalfi coast) and islands (Capri, Ischia) that attract Hollywood movie stars. But tourists often shy away from the city – most recently because its trash collection problem makes the nightly news the world over.

Garbage is a problem, although not enough to keep you away. Same for traffic, inconvenient visiting hours, inefficient public transportation… what holds down the tourist in Italy is the same in Naples, but more so. But it goes the other way around too.

In need of Espresso, Scaturrchio & p.zza San Domenico Maggiore, Naples

This is also part of why so many other things in Naples – from the pizza to desserts to coffee – can be better than in the rest of the Boot. So after an afternoon of running along the Spaccanapoli from the cloister of Santa Chiara to the traditional crèche piece market at San Gregorio Armeno, you can feel a bit woozy. That’s when you can slip into Scaturchio, one of the city’s most famous cafes in piazza San Domenico Maggiore and a nice cup of black, bitter espresso brings you your own little cup of nirvana.

And if you need it sweet or alcoholic, try eating it with a sfogliatella or a babà. But that’s another story.

For those of you reading this on Facebook or elsewhere, it was first published on

Scaturchio (Italian only):

Espresso Coffee on FoodistaEspresso Coffee

Venetian Coffee on FoodistaVenetian Coffee

Coffee on FoodistaCoffee

Baba With Rum on FoodistaBaba With Rum

7 responses to “Coffee is King, Especially When He’s Got No Clothes

  1. I recall feeling the slight disdain upon ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon while vacationing in Italy, whereas in Montreal it’s an accepted ritual to sit at one of your favourite cafés, lingering over a cup anytime of the day.

    • How true, growing up in Madison, Wisconsin it was the same thing. The shock when I first arrived in Bologna and three people had breakfast (cappuccino loades with sugar and a brioche) in the time it took me to take two sips of my cappucino.

  2. haha! I smiled when I read your post! One of my regrets is not having pursued learning Italian as a goal, a language that my father and aunt speak to perfection; your comments on Naples reminded me of Sidon, a beautiful city in the South of the country with similar problems and very few tourists; thanks for your tip on coffee, I like it black when I know it is going to be a good one, flavored with cardamom if possible.

  3. exactly, when you know it’s going to be a good one. I do have to try it with cardamom sometime soon. Pity, as you said, that Sidon is not a tourist city.

  4. Loved this post. We wanted to go to Naples, but I held out strongly that more time in fewer cities is best, also that way we just have a readymade excuse to go back. The coffee we had in Italy was delicious and the ease in which we got it standing at the counter only added to our enjoyment.

    Taste of Beirut’s suggestion of cardamon in coffee is right on – it is delicious!

    • Naples is a great place, but you have to pick and choose. Italy, like anyplace worth visiting, is worth spending time in. I really don’t understand whirlwind “If this is Tuesday this must be Belgium” trips.
      You need at least three days to scratch the surface of Naples, like you need five or six for Rome or Paris.

  5. I’m not even kidding, the second I began reading this post I started walking over to my coffee machine to grab a cup, but then I remembered I’m about to go workout so probably don’t need that 5th cup right now!

    I have never been to Italy but someday soon, I hope to go. My husband’s parents just returned a few weeks back and fell in love with that country!

    Nice to visit and now know your blog 🙂

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