Coffee Culture

Italian cappuccino

Coffee is one thing Italy does better than anyone else. You must be initiated into the cult of coffee, and there are rules you must heed. You will have ample opportunity to practice, because almost every meeting, every invitation, begins with coffee.

The Americans might have mastered the Starbucks style customized coffee drink, or the super sized caffeine fueled dessert in a glass; but the Italians have taken it to another extreme. Do not even contemplate ordering vanilla latte, it does not exist, but do try one of these typical orders listed below. And please follow the rules.

  • Caffé – a short espresso, it should have a thin foam of espresso on top
  • Ristretto – a very concentrated caffé, made with less water
  • Caffé Macchiato – a shot of espresso topped with a dash of steamed milk foam
  • Macchiatone – a Caffé Macchiato, served in a cappuccino cup, with extra steamed milk; bigger than a Caffé Macchiato, smaller than a Cappuccino
  • Café Macchiato in Vetro – a Café Macchiato served in a glass cup. (Yes this is an actual order)
  • Cappuccino – A shot of espresso topped with steamed milk and a thick layer of milk foam.
  • Caffé Latte – a shot of espresso topped with steamed milk, usually served in a glass. More milk than a cappuccino, and less foam. WARNING: If you order a “Latte” you will get a glass of milk.
  • Latte Macchiato – a tall glass of steamed milk with a dash of espresso.
  • Marochino – a short bulbous glass lined with chocolate syrup and then topped with a shot of espresso and some steamed milk. Similar to a Caffé Macchiato in Vetro, but with a chocolate lining.
  • Americano – a shot of espresso in a large cup and topped with hot water, to create a long, diluted coffee.


  • Cappuccino or Caffé Latte are only enjoyed in the morning. They play a principal role at breakfast where they may be accompanied by a sweet pastry or more commonly dry hard cookies or sweet crackers.
  • You can dunk dry cookies (biscotti), panettone, or even a croissant in your morning Caffé Latte
  • Coffee is never consumed with lunch, it comes after the meal
  • A cappuccino never, ever, EVER, comes after a meal. You will offend the Italians if you even insinuate that you might commit this gravest of crimes, the milk will turn in your stomach, as so they believe. And truly, if you do order a cappuccino after a meal, you will turn the stomach of any Italian in your company.

3 thoughts on “Coffee Culture

  1. “A cappuccino never, ever, EVER, comes after a meal.”

    Actually, it should be against the law to have a cappuccino after breakfast (say, after 10am). Unless you are German: they are well known to drink it at any time of the day…

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