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In Praise Of...

Italian Breakfasts

by Giada Mariani

Colazione all’italiana, breakfast the italian way, a joyful, sugar-filled, and chaotic affair. One that always starts with coffee. Whether at the bar or home, mornings for Italians means coffee, first and always. The bar is an institution. Step into an Italian cafè in the morning and you’ll see people crowding at the counter, chaotically but very specifically ordering their drink: caffè ristretto, macchiato, macchiato doppio, in tazza grande, in vetro. You’ll lean against a polished marble counter and savour a pastry, watching uniformed baristi whip up endless cups—spoons in different positions silently indicate the type of coffee they have to make. 

Sugar dominates. Pastries rule the bar offering—from the plain cornetto, to the filled version with cream, nutella or honey, to the local versions that differ from place to place. In Rome you have maritozzi alla panna, in Tuscany budini di riso, in Naples sfogliatelle. 

At home, a traditional Moka coffee maker is queen.  No coffee beats the Moka for me, not even at the bar. It is a joy—an object I love not just for its purpose but its design: the Bialetti branding (of the original Moka machine) will forever be my favourite branding. The little man with the raised hand in the logo brightens my every morning. Somewhere between dreaming and lucidity, I try to not to forget any of the ritualistic steps to start the Moka (if too sleepy, I tend to burn it): water first, coffee, lock, fire, five minutes, wait. The smell of the bubbling coffee wafts throughout the house. 

On most Italian breakfast tables you’ll find biscotti—cookies, usually simple ones, to dip into caffèlatte or tea. Dipping pastries into your coffee and milk is seen as very rude by many countries abroad, but it’s such a typically Italian way to enjoy it. I cannot recommend it enough. 

If you have a caring old school mamma, nonna or tata, you’ll find a crostata di marmellata on the table, otherwise there’s fette biscottate, a kind of rusk, or bread with jam. My chicest friends have pane toscano—tuscan saltless white flour bread, something few people understand—with butter and anchovy paste. There is little room for protein in Italian breakfasts, and little for fruits—a fresh orange juice is enough. And while you won’t find any of the healthy ingredients so many other countries prioritise in the morning, what you will find is ritual and sugar and joy. 

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