By Christine Jackson
FLORENCE/ROME, Italy – Mornings back home are a time for salt. Sharp, gooey cheeses, bacon and ham, fluffy omelets and toast with butter fill massive plates at greasy spoons all over the country. The savory, salty mix either tastes like home or a hangover, depending on the night you had. Either way, it’s deeply satisfying. Here in Florence, that mix doesn’t seem to exist.
As someone who almost never has time for the big bacon and egg breakfast, I can get behind the Italian breakfast system. The morning meal consists of bread or a pastry and some form of coffee, usually a cappuccino. This is true in Florence as well as Rome, where our first stop after leaving the train was at a local cafe. It’s reportedly true everywhere else in Italy, too.
My favorite combination, I’ve discovered, is a cappuccino with no sugar and a plain cornetto (a cousin to the croissant). It’s a simple, even basic combination, but one I’ve come to love.
The cornettos are unlike the croissants back home. They have the same flaky outside and buttery inside, but the top of each one is just barely glazed. It’s not the sort of white almost-icing that covers our donuts. It’s almost like they were barely brushed with simple syrup, just enough to add a little sweetness and make some of the flakes stick to your fingers as you pull the crescent apart.
I happen to like bitter flavors, so I pair the light, sweet cornetto with a cappuccino with no sugar. I’ve put sugar in my coffee twice while in Italy. The first time it was because I was at the cafe in the Gucci Museo and the sugar cubes were, in fact, Gucci logos. I challenge anyone to resist that instagram potential. The second time I thought it might be a good idea, but promptly dumped at least a couple of tablespoons in my cup by accident. Sugar no longer has a place in my morning cappuccino. It had its chance.
I’m not only avoiding sugar out of spite for a particularly generous shaker, but because it’s unnecessary. Buttery bread, sugary crust, bitter espresso and frothy milk are, despite what American cereal commercials will tell you, the elements of a balanced breakfast.* Like most of the meals we’ve had in Florence, it’s perfect in its simplicity. Grab your food, take a few minutes and go about your day.
After all, when in Rome…
*This statement is not endorsed by science, facts or any sort of food-related government agency. It is, however, endorsed by the writer of this blog. Grab a cappuccino. Eat a cornetto. Repeat.