I was never addicted to coffee, until I moved to Italy and met the marocchino, an espresso with foamed milk and cacao in a little glass cup.
I still remember my mother saying, “I didn’t get addicted to coffee until I was 26.” It rang like a “You’ll shoot your eye out” threat in my head for years.
But luckily, American coffee never tempted me, though I grew an appreciation for coffee ice cream. And for some strange reason, I resisted the $4 lattes and pseudo-milkshake coffee drinks from Starbucks and never got into that, either. I had the occasional caramel Frappuccino, but now when I go home it doesn’t tempt me at all.
I was here a full three years, having the occasional coffee or cappuccino with students/friends or Saturday mornings with S. Half the times I was there more for the cornetto/brioche than the coffee. At the end in Rome, I discovered a bar that makes a mean cappuccino with BAILEYs clotted cream and that was starting to get addictive. But yet I kept to only one or two a week. Nothing serious, and I didn’t miss it the days I didn’t have it.
Until I started regularly getting what I call, “Heaven in a Cup,” the Marocchino.
I’m not sure of the origins of this name, though I imagine in a country where they still sell a “Negrito” candy (this wrapper here is similar), the possibilities are numerous. Cappuccino comes from the Capuchin monks and their tell-tale hoods, so marocchino, a word that means “little Moroccan,” could have very interesting origins, I imagine.
It’s not called a marocchino in all of Italy, though. When we went to Puglia late this summer, I ordered one in a bar in Foggia (near Manfredonia). They looked at me strangely, and said, “Un espressino?” (A little espresso?) And I said, uh, sure, that, as it was obvious I wasn’t getting a marocchino. Unfortunately, Moroccans have a very bad reputation in most of Italy. Maybe ordering that in this area was a no-no.
To me, the marocchino is the perfect blend of coffee and milk. Add a touch of cacao (cocoa for us English speakers) on top and it’s perfect. Be careful when drinking it that you don’t leave any cocoa moustache. Some places even will add a small dollop of chocolate at the bottom (bar in Torino) or chocolate sprinkles (bar near work), but just “plain” cacao is great, too.
Since we moved here in July, we are still looking for our “perfect” morning bar. In Rome there was a great bar right across from my building’s doorway, so that was a no-brainer, and in Pavia the bars near the station sufficed. But now that we’re in Milan, and we know that we have the time to look around for a good place, we’re trying everywhere.
My colleague told me that he and his friends were recently trying to catalogue every bar in their area and rate them on the following things: quality, service, and flexibility. So far, we haven’t found one that fits all these things. A place near our house puts a little heart of cocoa on top of my marocchino (service+), but the coffee is a little bitter (quality-).
This particular marocchino is very good and comes from the bar on the corner near my office (on a side note, not one of the workers is Italian). Having a good marocchino near work is a blessing and a curse. It started innocently enough. All through September, I met with my colleagues in the morning to have a coffee together, chat and get ready for the day.
Now, since work has picked up considerably, many mornings we can’t all go together, but a mysterious magnetic tractor beam (yes, very similar to the Death Star) sucks me in the doorway as I walk by the bar anyway. I enter cautiously, aware of my solitude.
“MAROCCHINO??” the bar worker’s voice carried over the twenty other people in the bar. He knows what I need. “O VUOI ASPETTARE?” No, I don’t want to wait for the others to arrive for breakfast. JUST GIVE IT TO ME! I take my place at the bar, avoiding eye contact with others but focused on the coffee machine, like a junkie trying to get his fix.
It takes sooooooooo long, yet I know he’s making mine first since I’m now…a regular. I watch his hands. Coffee, a bit of cacao, froth and then a little more cacao on top. He sets it in front of me and my pores breathe a sigh of relief.
This is not good.
But oh, so good.
This is a strange little game I play with my marocchino. Every day I see if the sugar or the froth will win.
The sugar won, after a few seconds.
Have you tried the marocchino? Do you love it like I do?