...and with good reason! Italian coffee is robust and flavorful - if you've ever had an espresso, you know it can be VERY strong. But that's the way Italians like it.
If you know any Italians or have ever been to Italy, you probably know that espresso is a staple in their daily lives.
It most definitely is in my family's life.
Just like everything having to do with food or dining or anything to be consumed, the Italians take great pride in making delicious coffee.
Espresso is made in homes, restaurants and caffès all across the Italian peninsula.
From humble and small metal caffetiere used in the basic home-kitchen to the fancy-shmancy espresso machines in every corner caffè, espresso is like the life-blood of Italy.
You are walking down the cobblestone streets of a small town in Italy.
The sun is just starting to peak through the alleys between tall buildings and sounds of morning are percolating all around you.
A man on a scooter rushes past, apparently unaware that there shouldn't be traffic on such a narrow street.
You see your destination. Above the doorway it says simply "BAR".
You know this is no typical American brew hall. This is something much better, something full of life and movement and most importantly...full of coffee.
As you near you can already hear it. The wonderful sounds of clanging cups and saucers amongst the hissing of hot steam piercing cold white milk.
You walk inside. Making your way towards the cashier your senses are at full awareness.
The scent of roasted coffee beans is so euphoric you can almost taste it.
As you approach the counter, receipt in hand, you know just what to say when the busy baristo glances up at you.
"Un caffè, per favore" you say, and before he can turn away "ed un cornetto al cioccolato, grazie."
It seems almost instantaneous. These men waste no time.
Suddenly before you is the ultimate cup of coffee, and right beside it a puffy pastry - a small, melty goop of chocolate dripping from its side.
You pick up your tiny spoon and add just the right amount of sugar. *Cling, clang, cling* converse the spoon and cup as you mix sweetness and bitterness together.
You lift the espresso to your lips and... perfection.
How do you feel? Ready to trade in your Starbucks for some authentic Italian coffee?
I don't blame you.
To me, espresso is not only a drink, it represents part of who I am. I remember being offered a taste of it when I was just a small girl and today I relish it just as much as any native Italian you'll ever meet.
If you get a chance to travel to Italy, make sure you try some caffè or at least something of the coffee variety. Because amazingly, in Italian cooking and culture, espresso makes an appearance in so many forms, there is bound to be something for everyone.
From a straight caffè, cappuccino or latte... to an icy granita con panna, coffee flavored gelato or tiramisù!
Italian coffee really is a long, wonderful and complex thread woven into the cultural fabric of Italy.