Caffe’ al Vetro

We are currently without an espresso machine in our household. As my daughter would say: “Sad face.” 😦 We sent the Francis Francis X1 off to the repairman after five years of almost daily use. I think it needed a little pick me up. 😉 We are making do with our dark roast espresso ground Illy coffee in the Bialetti Moka, but I miss the visual delight of a well-pressed coffee. I came upon this vignette from Italian Notebook (an email I get weekly or so with little tidbits from Italy) about caffe’ al vetro–which made me miss the X1 even more. And also reminded me of one of my favorite scenes in my book, The Vendetta. A little excerpt for you below. Enjoy!

They left Trevi Fountain behind, and Nick turned down a small side street where they saw a man sweeping the stoop in front of a petite coffee bar. Nick said something to him in Italian that Lisa didn’t catch. The man put his broom aside and beckoned them in.

When she raised a brow in question Nick said, “He says he can fire up the espresso maker but it will take a few minutes. The cornetti are fresh, just delivered.”

Lisa grinned in anticipation.

They stepped into a tiny room furnished with a bar, an antique espresso machine, and a wall-sized mirror behind liquor bottles displayed on glass shelves. The scent of fresh-baked pastry wafted from two paper-wrapped boxes on the counter. Lisa chose a cornetto filled with a chocolate-hazelnut cream Nick said was Nutella.

Grazie.” She gestured toward the pastry in her hand. The man nodded and went back to his machine. She turned to Nick as he selected his own cornetto.

“What was that you were speaking to our proprietor?” she asked. “It sounded like Italian, but I couldn’t understand a word.”

Romanesco. Roman slang. Sort of like cockney to an English speaker,” he said.

She bit into her cornetto and then licked the sugar off her lips. She noticed Nick’s gaze riveted on her mouth as her tongue came out to catch a drip of chocolate.

“So you’re from Rome, then?” she asked. “Why do you speak English so well?”

“You’re very persistent, aren’t you?”

“And you’re not going to answer me, are you?”

“Look, Lisa—”

“You’re awfully stingy with details about yourself,” she interrupted cheerfully. “It makes me wonder what you exactly do as an exporter of luxury goods.”

She licked the tips of her fingers. “What do you export, Nick? Ladies lingerie? Silk drawers?”

He snorted.

“No? OK, how about drugs, then?”

He frowned slightly and shook his head. “Lisa—”

“No? Hmm, well, maybe it’s looted artifacts and stolen art.”

His frown became ferocious, and he stepped toward her, as if he wanted to shake her.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, the barista chose that moment to serve Lisa’s cappuccino. He set the steaming cup down on the bar next to her and offered the basket of sugar packets.

Prende il zucchero, Signorina?

Nick stepped back.

Glad for the distraction, Lisa selected a packet of sugar and then emptied it into her cup. The foamed milk was so thick the sugar stood for a moment on the surface before it slowly sank into the steaming liquid below. She stirred it with the little spoon from her saucer. She picked up the cup, took a sip, and saluted the man behind the counter, one barista to another. The drink was delicious.

Nick’s espresso came in a small shot glass with a dash of milk dotting the top.

“What do you call that?” Lisa asked as Nick took his first sip.

“It’s called a caffe macchiato al vetro. Coffee in a glass. You’re not familiar with it?”

She shook her head. “Why the shot glass?”

He shrugged. “For coffee purists. Glass is non-reactive so you get an unfiltered taste.” He turned up the little drink and took another sip.

When he didn’t say anything else, she returned to her coffee, trying to find another way through his curt reticence to the information she needed. She dunked the remaining bit of her cornetto in the creamy foam in her cup, savoring every last bite. When she looked up, she saw Nick watching her, his gray eyes flashing sliver.

“What?” She self-consciously grabbed a napkin.

“Finished?” he asked.

She nodded behind the small white square.

Nick put a few euros on the bar, thanked the man, and grabbed Lisa’s hand.

“Let’s walk,” he said.