It’s a nearly nightly ritual at our house to have espresso and/or cappuccino after dinner. I know my Italian friends will pretend they don’t know me when they learn that I serve cappuccino after 11am, as that is sacriledge in Italy. Cappuccino is ONLY a breakfast drink, never served after noon. And, truth be told, it’s only hubby who drinks a cappuch after dinner. I tend to go for an espresso or a macchiato (espresso with a tiny bit of steamed milk on top). A big cup of milk after dinner is just too filling for me.
That being said, it’s a nice little routine. Our trusty old La Pavoni Europiccola, which has been sent for service twice in the 15+ years we’ve owned it but still beats hands down any other home espresso/cappuccino machine, fires up with a pleasing “hissssss” every night once the boiler reaches full steam. We bought the Pavoni on the one and only vacation hubby and I actually took by ourselves 15 years ago, when instead of going to Disney (pre-kid, but hubby had never been), we decided to go to Italy. You see, at the time (pre-Euro), Italy was still the BARGAIN of Europe – the exchange rate from the lira to the dollar was almost 2-to-1 and so it actually cost us LESS than a trip to Disney at the time. We essentially established our own Italian import-export business by the sheer amount of stuff we brought back with us on the plane.
I had lusted after the La Pavoni at Williams-Sonoma, but wouldn’t even DREAM of spending the $700+ that they cost here at the time. Pavoni’s are true boiler-steam home espresso machines, not a “pump” machine like most cheaper consumer espresso makers are, and the Pavoni gets the closest you can come to cafe espresso at home. We were in Florence (Firenze) in this amazing kitchen store, when I spied the Pavoni. After confirming that they did, in fact, have them available in 120v for the US, we snatched it up for an absolute steal of about $150 after you converted the exchange rate from lira to dollars. Oh, how I miss the lira and the sheer bargains it once provided US travelers to Italy.
Even though technology has advanced, and there are fancier home espresso makers on the market now, I think I will never part with my old Pavoni. Here’s how to make a wonderful, after-dinner macchiato:
1. Start with a single shot of espresso in a pre-warmed demi-tasse or espresso cup (I like to use really hot tap water and let it sit in the cup to warm it). For espresso, we like to use either Lavazza d’Oro or Illy (medium roast, or red label), which are both imported from Italy. They are pre-ground coffees, which some purists would find appalling, but unless you have a really high-quality coffee grinder and are able to get a really fine ground espresso from whole beans, the pre-ground from Italy is the way to go. We go through almost a can per month, so it doesn’t have any time to get stale or old.
2. Steam your milk. I am generally making a cappuccino for hubby, so I just “borrow” a tiny bit of his steamed milk to top my macchiato. Just a small dollop will do (about a teaspoon’s worth). If you’re not also making a cappuccino, you need only a tiny amount of milk to steam.
3. Add a small spoon of sugar. Most US coffee purists would also find this appalling, but you will rarely, if ever, find an Italian who does not put at least a small amount of sugar in his cappuccino and espresso. It’s part of the complete taste.
It’s a little taste of Italy in a cup. Mmm.