Friday, February 27, 2009


The New York Times Blog
February 26, 2009, 2:01 pm

Milan Fashion Week | The Caffeine Guide
By J.J. Martin

There’s more to Milan coffee than just Cova. In fact, a handful of grand old-school bars have been cranking out flawless cappuccinos on buttercup damask tablecloths for nearly a century. Even the Neapolitans (big-time coffee snobs), who practically get a nosebleed when they come North, agree that Milan boasts some highly decent crushed beans. These traditional bars are the best places to ingest coffee in the city, but they are also great places to pop in for a quick lunch or preshow aperitivo. Here, the coffee is as smooth as silk, and a glass of spumante costs less than a Coca-Cola.

* Please, no cappuccinos after noon. It’s strictly a breakfast drink.
* If you take your coffee and brioche standing at the bar, get your receipt first. It will cost you a 1/4 of the table service prices.
* It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for your coffee da portare via, or “to go.” The barmen will enjoy the novelty.
* From 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., stop by for an aperitivo and you’ll be showered in decadent, free food with your drink.
* Skim milk is for sadists.
* Canines welcome at all times; computers, less so.

Bastianello- Via Borgogna 5

Since: 1950
Vibe: A slightly snobby staff and a local clientele boasting furs and face-lifts.
Home to: Milan’s creamiest, largest cappuccino, and latte macchiatos hand-blended at your table.
Without fail: Order an apricot kipfer at breakfast, and don’t miss the exceptional aperitivo spread.
Pencil in: Any time you’re headed in/out of the Quadrilateral, it’s just off Piazza San Babila.
Gattullo- Piazzale di Porta Lodovica 2

Since: 1961
Vibe: Lots of activity, not much room to sit. So come early if you want to breakfast properly.
Home to: Divine panini (try the carciofini/prosciutto).
Without fail: Order the mouthwatering “toast” — it’s the best in all of Milan.
Pencil in: To/from the Naviglio (Armani, Hogan, Piazza Sempione).
Sissi- Piazza Risorgimento 6

Since: The 1950s
Vibe: The only Milan bar run by an African staff in pink and white uniforms.
Home to: Milan’s best-known pasticceria. Truly heavenly brioche and desserts, especially the fruit tart with whipped cream.
Without fail: Come during the springtime and enjoy your coffee under the wisteria in the back garden.
Pencil in: After your Dolce & Gabbana re-see in Via Goldoni.
Marchesi- Via Meravigli

Since: Brewing cafes since the turn of the 19th century.
Vibe: A crumbling jewel of a space. The staff is as ancient as the 1824 edifice.
Home to: Milan’s only fast-caffeine joint: no tables, bar service is required.
Without fail: Pick up the house-made chocolates or (during Christmas only) a puffed-up panettone.
Pencil in: Before Ferragamo’s show in the Piazza dei Affari.
St. Ambroeus- Corso Matteotti 7

Since: 1936
Vibe: The locals — lawyers and heavy-hitting businessmen — have ignored the bad interior remodel, and so should you.
Home to: A chic, shrub-enclosed outdoor eating area. Perfect for a civilized lunch.
Without fail: Great tramezzini and Milan’s best chocolates.
Pencil in: After shopping at the Jil Sander store.
Cucchi- Corso Genova 1

Since: 1936
Vibe: That’s Mr. Cucchi behind the register in his tailor-made suit, surveying young fashion designers as they mingle with the bar’s loyal octogenarian set.
Home to: The city’s best homemade tortelli, the donut-hole-like confection that is made only during the Carnival season (January and February).
Without fail: Order the sfoglia alla mela at breakfast. Santo cielo!!
Pencil in: To/from the Versace theater.

Since: 1909
Vibe: A recent makeover means the chandeliers are from-the-box shiny, but old-school Italians still frequent the place.
Home to: Very good coffee, but skip the brioches. (They died with the old décor.)
Without fail: Come for lunch or aperitivo: there’s never a wait, and the food is simple and lovely.
Pencil in: On your way to/from Fendi or Moschino.

Cappuccino Chiaro: More milk, less coffee.
Cappuccino scuro: More coffee, less milk.
Latte macchiatto: The largest coffee drink available — most similar to an American latte.
Café marocchino: A miniature mocha served in an elegant shot glass.
Brioche: The linchpin of the traditional Italian breakfast. Often looks like a croissant but is sweet, not savory. Filled with cream, jams or is vuoto (plain)
Toast: This is the classic bar snack, not the U.S. breakfast accessory: toasted bread with ham and cheese.
Tramezzino: A divinely stacked sandwich with the crusts neatly chopped off.

photo credit: Ferdinando Scianna/Magnum Photos
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