How to Take an Italian-Style Coffee Break
In Italy it can seem as if the coffee break is an all-day affair. Walk into any neighborhood bar and there will be action: the loud buzz of the espresso machine, the clatter of china on the countertop, and friendly banter as the door opens and closes in almost continuous motion. There's also always a glass case of lovely treats to ogle: sweet ones, like the reliable crostata, a lattice-topped tart filled with fruit jam, and cornetti (croissants), which are for breakfast, and savory ones, such as small rolls stuffed with thinly sliced prosciutto or a small wedge of frittata, and the white bread sandwiches called tramezzini, with assorted fillings which vary from place to place.
The coffee bar is the pivot-point of the block. In fact, regulars are stopping in sometimes four times per day for a pick me-up—from a breakfast cappucino to a mid-morning panino. Most Italians stand at the bar, gulp down an espresso, and go on their way. Some, especially the older patrons, meet in the late morning, gathering at a round table to catch up over a caffé with a water chaser, and a cream-filled pastry puff or a crumbly cookie. On a sunny day, even in winter, the tables on the sidewalk fill up with those looking to practice the art of "prendere il sole," taking the sun-coats buttoned up, colorful scarves wrapped around their necks, and newspapers spread out on the table.
Why can't we take our coffee in the Italian-style, too? Rather than grab a cup with a plastic lid and walk back to the office or the car with it, let's try something different: taking our break with a side of fresh air or a drop of sun—or five minutes of conversation with a neighbor. Then we can get back to work.
Mornings are for the comforting warmth of a frothy cappuccino paired with sweet, tender pastries.
A lemon ciambellone, or ring cake, is a southern Italian breakfast staple; you can get a slice at almost every bar. The cake often has yogurt in the batter to create a tender crumb. Our version has sour cream in its place, and crystallized ginger for a bit of extra zing.
The unspoken law of coffee drinking in Italy is: no milky drinks past about eleven in the morning. After lunch you can have your caffè neat—just the way it came out of the espresso machine, or maybe marked with a tiny dollop of foamed milk.
Caffè means espresso, pure and simple—any variation on that will need to be specified.
Apricot Crostata Cookies
What could be cuter than a cookie version of the classic apricot crostata? And because the lattice is piped onto the jam layer, there's no basket weaving of pastry required. Another bonus: these cookies will keep for several days once baked.
Torta di Mele
Making a fantastic Italian sandwich doesn't require big equipment or a lot of ingredients. See how easy it is to master the classic with proscuitto and mozzarella before you start getting creative.
Frittata with Zucchini and Provolone
Brilliantly simple, satisfying, and filling, the frittata is the Italian trick-up-the-sleeve. It can be served at any time of day, in a sandwich or on its own.
This is how to serve granita when you want to feel like you're in the piazza, living la dolce vita: with a lofty swirl of cream on top.