Un caffé, per favore. This is a wonderful line to memorise and one which, no doubt you have heard time and time again, both in Italy and outside. The thing is, whilst it’s a great way to politely order a coffee in Italian, for any coffee connoisseurs, what is the barman actually going to serve you?! If you’re after a smooth latte and you’re served a triple espresso, you’re probably going to get a shock, if not heart palpitations! So here’s a little guide to help you get the coffee you actually wanted, so you can sip confidently, like a real Italian.
Italian coffee is universally famous for quality, intensity and taste, but its etiquette is not as widespread abroad. Having coffee ‘the Italian way’ is chic, classy and actually rather snobbish, but you have to do it properly. Italian coffee culture is unique and locals are madly proud of it.
Keep a few of these simple names in mind and make the most of your Italian coffee experience!
The bar is the Italian café. Sometimes the sign might say Caffé or Caffetteria, but it will always mean a place with a few tables and an espresso machine. All the rest is optional. Bars also serve other drinks including wine and quick meals like sandwiches or salads. In Italy there is a bar at every corner and locals affiliate to one or the other like we might do to football clubs. Going to the bar is a social activity, and in each one you will find different groups of people. Wherever you are, have a look around and choose the one that inspires you. Are you in the mood for an elegant historical Caffé or for a warm and welcoming little neighbourhood bar?
If you simply ask for a caffé, you will be served a single espresso. That is the default coffee in Italy.
Caffé al banco
Italians don’t always sit down at a table to have their coffee. They often drink it al banco, at the counter. Simply ask the barman for what you want and it will be served in front of you. Caffé al banco is perfect for chatting and socialising with locals and is usually less expensive than coffee served at the table.
A single espresso with a few drops of hot milk.
A single espresso with a few drops of grappa or liquor.
A single espresso even more concentrated.
A double espresso.
An espresso slightly more diluted with water. Italians rarely have it, but it’s a good option if you find the espresso too strong or if you think that it disappears too quickly.
There is only one thing to say about cappuccino in Italy. Italians have it only for breakfast. If you order it after your meal (or, even worse, to accompany your meal) be prepared for glances of disapproval.
A single espresso shaken with ice and often with a few drop of Amaretto, this one’s perfect for summer.
Served mainly in the north, it’s an espresso with milk served in a cup covered in cocoa, which melts giving the coffee an indulgent twist.
Warm, frothy milk with a few drops of coffee. Only for breakfast.
In Italian, latte means milk. So if you order a latte, you will get a glass of milk!
Words by Bibianna Norek.