By Rachel Orland
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Every child growing up in the United States is ingrained with this saying. Large bowls of Reese’s Puffs and plates filled with Eggo waffles were staples in my house growing up. While tables crowded with cereal boxes, pans of scrambled eggs and cups of juice and milk comprise a common breakfast scene in America, Italy takes a much more simplistic approach to the meal. I headed out early one morning to a café to experience a true Italian breakfast...strictly for research purposes, of course.
A café called Pasticceria Bruschi is just one picturesque cobblestone street away from my temporary home, the Rooney Family Center. I walked into the dainty café and saw rows of pristine pastries, each one competing to be my breakfast with shows of powdered sugar and fruity centers. In my best attempt at Italian, I ended up ordering a cream-filled cannoli paired with a cappuccino. I’m used to paying close to $10 for a coffee and pastry, so I gladly paid the 2,40 euro and took a seat at a table outside. The quiet atmosphere was my first tip off that breakfast was not a big event. Outside seating in the United States may conjure images of unpleasant metal tables squeezed into a side alley, wind blowing hair into your mouth and the beating sun melting your meal. However, my outdoor breakfast was complemented by comfortable, padded chairs and brightly-colored, fragrant flowers. The peace and quiet was only interrupted by an occasional moped revving through the streets.
My cannoli was a flakey croissant, filled with airy cream and topped with light powdered sugar. The buttery shell was so delicate, carrying it out to my table was like carrying a valuable glass vase. The sugary Starbucks drinks from the states do not compare to the creamy cappuccinos here. I could taste the bitterness in my drink through clouds of foam on the first sip. The design in the cream stretched and distorted as I tipped the cup higher for a sip. Halfway through my cup, the bitter espresso punctured through the cloud of foam, striking my tastebuds with chocolatey notes of flavor. For a moment, I forgot about my usual drink: an iced venti, double shot, shaken espresso. I was lost in the strong scent of fresh brew and the aromatic spirals of steam. As Italian chef Fabio frequently says, the best cappuccino has a small amount of actual espresso, and the rest is filled with frothy milk. I finally understood culture shock when I had to learn how to cope without cups and cups of caffeine every morning. One cappuccino can demonstrate major lifestyle differences between American and Italian culture. Americans who don’t travel internationally may never realize how rushed their lives are. Italian time, filled with leisurely strolls and midday naps, doesn’t require huge amounts of caffeine and sugar. I eventually got through my withdrawals and accepted that I had to get enough sleep every night to stay awake all day.
The cannoli and coffee were a sweet start to the day. To the barista who made my coffee and the dog walkers that passed my table, it seemed like a normal breakfast: a single pastry item served with a small cappuccino. What they didn’t see was the American eyeing more pastries or already daydreaming about lunch. While Italian breakfast is double the quality of American breakfast, it is also half the size; I’ll have to ignore the nagging voice in my head telling me to “eat up” at breakfast. The more I learn about Italian culture, the more I feel like I pull out the thread sewing together all the norms and expectations I knew from the states. Some habits are easier to break than others. Being content with a fresh, warm dessert and Italian coffee shouldn’t take much time getting used to.
Editors: Grace Tipps, Aly O'Shea, Taylor Glissman
Photographer: David Reinhart