There’s a sentiment unique about the Eternal City which can’t be felt elsewhere. It’s hardly the only city in the world where old and new coexist, but the scale of this city, which gave the world modern civilization, the cosmopolitan vibe, the casual existence of two thousand year old ruins and roads that people pass by on their way to work, makes Rome a special city with its place in the fabric of the human heritage.
If you don’t like this new-age mumbo jumbo about pourovers, drip coffees, lattés and spiced chai, Rome is the place for you. In Italy, if you order “caffè” (coffee)… you’re going to get an espresso. You finish your drink, standing, at the bar. It’s a refreshing change from American cafes where people expect to sit for hours plugged into their laptops.
Cappuccinos can be drunk before 11AM, (because milk is considered a meal in itself) but anytime after will get you raised eyebrows. Order a latté…and you will get a glass of milk.
There is a famous rivalry of two espresso bars located in the shadows of the Pantheon, Sant’Eustachio and Tazza d’Oro. In the former, the ‘first place’ in Rome to serve espresso, one can definitely feel the tourist vibe. Here you will be shoving shoulders with international visitors; pre-sealed cans of beans are visible for sale. I tried their ‘Gran Caffè’ which is famous for its thick layer of crema which you eat with the spoon after you drink the espresso. I later learned that they increase the crema with baking soda… Between the two I would rate Tazza d’Oro higher. It’s still crowded but it is more laid back and their espresso is better, and the baristas are nicer.
However, I was seeking a more purely ‘local’ espresso experience. For that, some may say it is necessary to leave the center of the city. In fact, right across from Sant’Eustachio is a smaller, inconspicuous bar called “Cafe’ et Caffe'” which was recommended to me by a family friend who lived in Rome for 25 years. The owner, a native of Salerno, still makes coffee with the manual pulled machine, which is rare (neither of the ‘famous’ Roman places do this) these days. So after dinner, at nearly 1AM, we went for some good shots and were not disappointed. The crema was noticeable but delicate, and the bitterness wasn’t repetitive-it was refreshing.
The second place I recommend is Sicilia e Duci, a small pasticceria in the trendy Trastevere neighborhood. It seemed like a family favorite, as all of the other customers were families with kids. I would highly recommend getting a cannolo, sfoglia, or any of their homemade Sicilian pastries.
The Rome list is far from complete, a stub, if you will, which I plan on expanding the next opportunity I get….