44. More coffee talk

Oh, no! Say it ain’t so!

I opened the New York Times on Wednesday, to see a full-page announcement from Starbucks that they were opening a shop in Milan. This first is a special “Roastery” shop, to be followed by four regular, Frappuccino-serving stores in the near future. As the ad suggests, Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ founder, was in a cafe in Milan in 1983 when he was inspired to start the chain. According to this article in the Times, on the first day of the new Milan Starbucks, there was an hour-long line to get in.

One of the high points of a trip to Italy is the coffee. I love everything about it — the gleaming machinery, the surefire agility of the baristas, the aroma that spills out into the street, the distinctive clank of the ceramic cups and saucers hitting against each other. I love my discovery this summer of an “espressino,” which is halfway between a cappuccino and a cortado, which can be found only in a small corner of Puglia.

I have a tradition of having a cappuccino at a bar (their word for cafe) at the Rome airport as soon as I land. I always scrounge around for leftover euro to give friends who are making the trip, so they can have that first caffè and cornetto on me.

In Torino, they put shaved chocolate on top.

I know there is a receptivity in Italy to all things American. My daughter worked as a camp counselor one summer in Northern Italy, and the children’s favorite was “American” pizza, with hot dogs and fries on top. But it’s one thing to see a McDonald’s in Rome or Naples. After all, we’re the king in the burger department. But this is entirely different. What next? Pizza Hut and SpaghettiOs?

I am not a Starbucks hater, although I find their cappuccino so tasteless and milky as to be undrinkable and a little nauseating. But can’t they just cede to Italy as the masters of the form? Do we have to stick our big nose in everywhere?

Double-fisted cappuccino at Hotel Mirasole, Gaeta.

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