Caffé al Vetro

September 21, 2012 / Food & Wine

For many people, poor souls, coffee is simply a beverage that one drinks. To anyone who appreciates coffee all’italiana however, a good caffé is so much more. Now, without going Aristotelian on anyone, one of its main aspects is aesthetic… yes, as in visual. Coffee mustn’t just taste good, it needs to look good too… this is Italy after all.

E allora? Order it al vetro, “in glass”. Your excuse is that it cools more quickly than in the traditional ceramic cup, a desirable trait when it’s hot out. But you aren’t fooling anyone… the real reason is aesthetic. It just looks better. As you would say in Italy, l’occhio vuole la sua parte. (lit., the eye demands its share.)

While the normal caffé al vetro is your aesthetic standard, occasionally you might want to mess with perfection and spruce it up a notch. In this case, ask for un caffé al vetro schiumato… literally, “foamed”. Here your barista will serve it with a spoonful of foamed milk deposited on top. Drink it as is, don’t stir it together!

Feeling daring? Very occasionally, you just have to go for broke… nothing else will do but the gold-standard of caffé aesthetics. Here you are entering the rarefied world of the true intenditore (aficionado, lit. someone who understands, i.e. just “gets it”). Best not indulge too often as this one is highly addictive. Un caffé al vetro con panna (with whipped cream) is a visual experience, and not just, that will keep you smiling for the entire day.


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

10 Responses to “Caffé al Vetro”

  1. Penny Ewles-Bergeron
    Penny Ewles-Bergeron

    If you only knew how much I miss Italian coffee! Thanks for sharing the wisdom of the intenditore GB.

  2. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    lore has it that the custom of ‘al vetro’ goes back to the Ceasars. For fear of additives being in the caffe, they prefered to see what was in it. allora…..

  3. It is difficult to describe perfection. Your article, your photos and your passion shine through and I can only guess having a caffe’Al Vetro with you would not be a casual encounter but somehow a life changing experience. Great newsletter!!!

  4. mmmmmm….So missing my Italian coffees. I, too, have photos to remind me of them. Love knowing about why they are so often served al vetro. Grazie, GB!

  5. Colleen Simmpson

    Ah! You have just tempted me to go the panna route and how very sinful that is. That sound you hear? The door slamming as I depart for Bar Luna only a block away in Piegaro piazza!!

  6. Angela Sopranzi

    I can always tell when a post is written by you GB. You always manage to put a smile on my face. Thank you for transporting me to the Bella Italia.

  7. Having just returned from Roma last night at 11:30 p.m., this post makes me sigh. I’m already pining!

    And by the way, I agree with what Angela Sopranzi wrote in the comment above. Lei e’ bravissimo!

  8. Anne Robichaud

    GB.enjoyed your note and si, si, si to what you wrote on cafe’!
    Have to settle for Starbuck’s or Caribou or similar when home in US..but when I do, always ask for my caffe’ macchiato ” in a ceramic cup”.
    Looking around me in Starbuck’s, I’m the only one without a paper cup.

    Espresso caffe’ in a paper cup!??!!!
    “To go”, no less!


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