Katie & Giancarlo Caldesi
13 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
Helen Cathcart

Caffè e cornetto (coffee and a croissant) is the typical morning order placed at the local bar for almost every Italian, in every Italian street, in every Italian city I have ever visited. I love this time of day; there is a busy, bustling, convivial atmosphere in a small room crowded with freshly scrubbed Italians smelling of aftershave and perfume, with freshly applied make-up, chatting, laughing and getting their first fix of sugar and caffeine for the day ahead. But life wasn’t and isn’t always like this.

For our countryside-dwelling friends, who have animals to feed before themselves, breakfast is taken later. It is more substantial and perhaps more in line with my savoury tooth. In times past, colazione in the countryside was an array of bread, meats and cheeses always served with a jug of homemade wine. In time, the wine was replaced by a cup of milky coffee.

So, in this chapter, we have covered all the bases and included breakfasts from urban bars to rural farmhouse kitchens. We also have friends who, like many Italians, have realised they (like Giancarlo) can no longer tolerate gluten, and those who have been advised to cut sugar or carbohydrate out of their diet. Yes, diabetes and obesity are problems that face many Italians, too. For a healthier breakfast we suggest Babbo’s Eggs, a slice of the erbolata or a vegetable timbale.


Firstly, a little about coffee, an essential drug to every Italian I know. It was introduced to Italy through Venice from the Middle East. Initially it was thought to be an Islamic threat to the Christian world, a demon of a drink. However, after Pope Clement VIII drank a cup he proclaimed it Christian and the first coffee house or caffè was opened in 1683, named for the drink it sold. Fourteen billion cups of espresso are consumed each year in Italy. Each adult Italian will drink an average of four shots of coffee in a day. Coffee taken standing at the bar costs less than when it is drunk at a table as there is no clearing or service involved. Most Italians are in and out of a bar quickly, hence the lukewarm temperature of a cappuccino so you can drink and go. Ask for caldo if you want yours hot.

‘14 billion cups of espresso are consumed each year in Italy.’

Coffee-making by experienced baristas is taken seriously. As every Italian seems to be a coffee expert it is not surprising that the art of making the perfect espresso, cappuccino or macchiato time after time is treated with respect. Apparently, over 57 per cent of baristas have 10 or more years of experience and the majority are therefore of an older age. Scalded milk, a cappuccino served too hot to drink in a hurry, or an espresso without the thin layer of pale brown foam (crema) is not appreciated. Baristas have to observe the weather and adjust the grinding of the coffee appropriately. They have to constantly clean and brush away any used coffee grounds and maintain the machines which are their livelihood. The milk should ideally be served at 70°C for a drink to be drunk straight away, and coffee cups should always be warm.

Italian coffees


The most concentrated shot of coffee, taken before the water has finished dripping through the filter.

Espresso or caffè

Singolo or doppio (single or double) shots of the dark elixir ground to order from a mixture of Robusta and Arabica beans.

Espresso lungo

A longer espresso, where water is allowed to drip through the filter for longer than normal.


The barrista’s mix of a single shot of espresso in a small round cup with roughly four times the amount of milk steamed to 70°C, with foam filling the rest of the cup (the foam should be creamy and marshmallowy, with bubbles so small they’re pretty much invisible).

The name comes from the 19th century kapuziner, a small Viennese coffee mixed with cream or milk until it resembled the colour of the Capuchin friars’ habits.

Drink it before 11 am and never with or after a meal. Do dunk a biscuit into it for breakfast. Some Italians pour cereal into the cup – weird!


A long black coffee.

Caffè latte

Do say the ‘caffè’ with the ‘latte’ or you will be served a glass of warm milk. Like cappuccino, caffè latte is only permissible in the mornings.


A single espresso ‘marked’ with a swirl of foam.


Iced coffee served in summer, shaken over ice and usually sweetened (unless you specify senza zucchero), boosted with a shot of liqueur such as Frangelico, if you wish.


An espresso ‘corrected’ by alcohol, usually grappa, sambuca (Giancarlo’s favourite) or brandy.


Pronounced ‘ponchay’, this beverage, a sweet and powerful mixture of espresso, rum, sugar and lemon zest, is found in the Livorno area and is named after punch brought there by the British.


Decaffeinated coffee used to be frowned upon but is now more widely accepted.


A barley coffee with a gentle taste and no caffeine, which used to be drunk in times of poverty and by the elderly, and is now popular with many young people.


A pleasing mixture of hot chocolate and coffee. Confusingly pronounced in the same way as the Moka pots, the little aluminum coffee makers that bubble away on stoves in every household.

Breakfast in the Tuscan countryside

Between our friends, breakfast in the country ranges from yoghurt with fruit, toasted Tuscan saltless bread with a tomato and green Tuscan olive oil, or, for Giancarlo’s father, it was bread with a ripe jammy fig or a wedge of fresh melon. Antonella Secciani prepares a spread of salami, finnochiona, cheese, fresh broad beans, raw artichokes in pinzimonio (an oil dressing), leftover pappa al pomodoro and a jug of homemade red wine for the owners and staff at the agriturismo (farm B&B). It is eaten between 9 and 10 am after sorting out the animals on the farm and taking the kids to school.

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