Breakfast in Italy
Italians don’t do savory breakfasts. Yet they do seem to think that all Americans eat bacon, eggs and biscuits every morning as if the US were a country full of farm hands. Obviously, they don’t know about avocado toast! Breakfast in Italy is fairly no nonsense and of the overwhelming sweet variety. It is also the only time when milk in coffee is acceptable!
At the Bar
Caffè and Cornetto (Coffee and Croissant)
This is the most nationally ubiquitous breakfast. In some off the beaten path neighborhoods, you can buy a caffè and cornetto for 1 euro. The average price is 2 euro. Here is how you order and eat. Go the cash register in any bar and say ‘caffè e cornetto perfavore.’ Pay and take your scontrino (receipt) to the bar. The barista will hand you a cornetto. Only after you have eaten every morsel of the croissant will the barista serve you your caffè. The caffe will be espresso and if you are in the South, the cup will be pipping hot as this is thought to be the best way to serve. If you don’t want to burn your lips, dip a demi spoon into the espresso and then glide over the rim of the cup. This forms a protective barrier to protect your lips from the of the searing heat of the espresso cup. At least that’s what they say. Frankly I find this never works. All Neapolitans assure me I am categorically wrong. You be the judge.
Most foreign travelers to Italy by now live in fear of ordering cappuccino at the wrong time (i.e. after lunch…) in Italy. Most Italians will say only cappuccino for breakfast. Me, I say NEVER! Because I hate milk. The point here is that milk is heavy and meal unto itself. Capuccino for breakfast is fine. You can order it at the bar but I think it is best to order while seated. It takes longer to drink. You pay more when seated. To learn more about ordered all coffee in Italy, click here.
Cookies, cookies, cookies and Moka Pot Caffè
Italians eat cookies for breakfast, lots of them. The first thing an Italian does in the morning is locate her moka pot. While caffè is percolating, cookies are located. To be very Italian, eat as many cookies as you want with no regard for caloric, sugar or carbohydrate content. Down 2-3 cups of espresso. And then to be EXTRA Italian make a rueful comment about Americans only eating shit for breakfast while failing to notice the trail of cookie crumbs on your shirt.
Fette Biscottate (Rusks)
These are gross mostly synthetic slices of twice baked bread called rusks in English. Most native English speakers don’t even know what a rusk is and really it would be better that way. There is good news here though. Rusks will keep forever in your cupboard. Berlusconi and Trump could start a nuclear apocalypse, wiping out half of Western Europe and your Italian cupboard would still house the fette biscottate. Lucky you. Slather with butter and marmelade and dunk in warm milk if you want to be Italian.
At the Hotel
Muffins, cookies, crumbs, discarded bread crusts, Nutella sludge..
If you are lucky enough to stay at a bed and breakfast that predominantly lodges Italians, you are in for a real treat at the breakfast line. Actually, there will be no line so much as an amoeba like mass that surrounds the paltry table offering pre-packaged biscuits. The most prized item on the table will be the croissants. In organizational feats that only an Italian inn keeper could master, there will be approximately five croissants available and roughly 100 hotel guests. These croissants will also be disgusting and store bought but Italians derive immense pleasure from enjoying cornetti and cappuccino while at a hotel. In the process of claiming your crossiant, you will notice cookie shrapnel, yogurt smear and unceremonious piles of granola. This will be your hotel breakfast. There is no way an amateur will win the cornetto death dual, especially if there is a batty old nonna in the mix. It might be the first time she is staying in a hotel, but walk away, the cornetto is hers!
Fluffy scrambled eggs, crisp bacon, smoked salmon, actual FLAKY French croissants..
You must be staying at a five-star hotel in Italy! This will likely be the only place in Italy you will enjoy properly cooked eggs and bacon. You might not even eat eggs and bacon back at home. But you are on vacation, and damn it, if the Italian wants his caffe and cappuccino in his hotel breakfast, you want the last crispy piece of bacon. If you are at a five star hotel, you will never be faced with the sad last piece of crispy bacon. There are mounds. The croissants, unlike most you find in bars in Italy, are flaky French croissant which even I enjoy dunking into a cappuccino. The best, most legendary breakfast in Rome is at the Grand Hotel. This is also where Matt Damon whacked Philip Seymour Hoffman in the head with a statue in the film the Talented Mr. Ripley. Film noir and bacon…now really what more could you want out of your dream trip to Rome.
Granita and Brioche
This is by far the most delightful breakfast in all of Italy. I love a strong cup of espresso and a cornetto. But in Sicily there is an even better breakfast waiting for you. Granitas with the best house made flavors imaginable---- prickly pear, almond, coffee, lemon. It is too hot here to even think about coffee. Dunk a fat brioche into the granita of your choice preferably while enjoying a view of the sea. The best version of this breakfast I have ever enjoyed was in the tiny town of Ginostra on the island of Stromboli. Go directly to Bar Luna and order granitas in every flavor they have. Prickly Pear from the island is best!