Updated: Feb 16, 2022
I love cappuccino. Even though drinking it after 10 in the morning is taboo to Italians I am willing to be branded along with foolhardy tourist and drink the sweet yet mildly bitter mix of espresso and milk whenever I have occasion.
A simple pleasure of my life is to enter one of my favorite haunts in Rome, respond to the barista’s inquiry with “vorrei un cappuccino” and then for a brief moment have all my senses awakened in anticipation… the clinking of the tiny spoon as it is laid on the saucer, the thumping of the filter being emptied, the hum as the beans are ground, watching the dark golden cream of espresso fall into the cup, the hissing of the milk steamer, the aroma of the cappuccino now before me. My mouth is starting to water just thinking of it.
I can’t explain the art behind a good cappuccino. Two key ingredients are obviously fresh coffee beans (not overly roasted, ground on the spot) and fresh milk (not re-steamed). Italian friends have told me that other factors include humidity, the age of the machine, how fine the beans are ground, how tight they are packed into the filter, and a special skill the barista possesses that I do not.
A bad cappuccino is truly bitter indeed. You never know if you will experience caffeine bliss when you walk into a new caffé, however, here are a few coffee bars in the city that I usually walk away from satisfied…
Sant’Eustachio teems with regulars and tourists just steps away from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The Grand Café is twice the size of a standard cappuccino.
Within eyeshot of the Pantheon is Tazza d’Oro, another well-known caffé in Rome.
At the top of the stairs of Piazza di Spagna turn left towards Pincio park and you’ll find Caffé Ciampini along with a great view of the city.
Between the Quartiere Ebraico and Campo de’ Fiori on Via Arenula is Bar del Cappuccino. With a name like that you know it has to be good.
Caffé Palombini is in my neighborhood of l’EUR.
According to my friend Valerio Moonlight Café in Testaccio, between Piramide and Trastevere, makes the best cappuccino in Rome.
If you’re in Rome before I finish language school this month, you’ll find me before morning class at Caffetteria Covo just below the school on Via dei Serpenti. I’ll give you one guess what I’ll be drinking.