Rome

Caffe Capitolino

Last but not least, the cafeteria of Musei Capitolini did not feature on the list of the best cafes in Rome and was not suggested to me by anyone as a place to visit – it was simply a logical destination after a day of walking and sightseeing and specifically two hours of finding my way around the maze of the Capitolini museums whilst admiring thousands of the most beautiful sculptures from the ancient era. I was starving.

It was not easy to find the only place that served food there, as the direct corridor leading to the cafe from where I landed at the end of my tour was closed for renovation and I had to find a lift in another wing to take me there, which was not at all straightforward. When I finally got there, I was slightly put off, not feeling dressed properly for the quality of service, represented by the waiters – dressed in banquet uniforms. The place was very bright and quiet, and there were hardly any people there and I was worried they were about to close; but thankfully, they weren’t. Also I breathed more easily when I saw their selection of food: simple panini and salads, which normally would probably pose a disappointing choice, but at the time when I was too tired to think, a tuna sandwich was just what I needed.

Coffee was a more challenging choice – yes, this time I considered something more thrilling than an espresso or a marocchino. The menu adapted to the international clientèle and therefore was quite extensive; but the Caffe Capitolino caught my eye straight away, and my sixth sense must have kicked in, as when I asked what was in the coffee, the answer was: chocolate… I didn’t let the cashier finish speaking when I exclaimed, smiling : “I’ll have that!”

The view from the Caffe Capitolino terrace

Despite the averageness of the ‘meal’, the coffee looked extraordinary in a cocktail-type stem glass. And to add to the experience, there was the view from the balcony where I was sat: absolutely stunning! It was a good enough reason on its own to pay the fee at the museum door – as if all the beautiful art that it contained wasn’t. The panino was maybe not glamorous but it was tasty; and the coffee? Divine. I did give in to the whipped cream because I thought I had deserved it, but it didn’t spoil the rest of the beverage: quite frankly, it was a marocchino, with slightly more chocolate in it than others that I had tasted.

Now, because one of the baristas saw me take a photo of it, he asked me to return to the bar after I had finished to try “the best cappucino in Rome” – and despite being quite full after my late lunch, I couldn’t say ‘no’ to such an offer! I couldn’t also objectively assess the claim, as I hadn’t tried a cappucino anywhere else in the city (although I would have had if Sciascia had been open when I tried to visit…!); but I can safely say it is worth recommending. Smooth and creamy like a flat white, but lighter; with the added sweetness of a Roman-barista charm.

Cappucino at Caffe Capitolino

All in all, Rome proved to provide an unforgettable mix of catharsis through art and indulgence through its coffee-culture; a mix that has raised the bar for any prospectus coffee-tasting experience. And it was perfectly encompassed on the terrace of Musei Capitolini, with the view overlooking the most stunning city I have visited so far.

But the quest continues…

http://en.museicapitolini.org/oltre_il_museo/caffetteria (the cafe page only in Italian)

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Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe

Half-way through my stay in Rome there was this rare evening when I could sit down and have a wee chat with Ambra. The moment I mentioned I review cafes, she asked me if I visited Sant’Eustachio‘s; it featured on the list she had kindly prepared for me prior to my arrival when I had said that one of my aims in Rome was to visit its best coffee houses. Nevertheless, I was surprised that she asked about that particular one straight away – just and only, I figured later, because I was already biased against the place due to a comment I saw on Google Maps when trying to place the cafes from the list on a map: “Niente di speciale”. Since it apparently wasn’t “anything special”, I decided to prioritise the places that received more positive comments; yet Sciascia (“the best Cappucino in Italy”) was closed at any time of day I tried to visit, and Cioccolata e Vino, suggested by Ambra herself when I mentioned I loved mochas, opened only in the evenings – and I didn’t find it safe to travel to Trastevere alone by night time.

Sant’Eustachio

Noting Ambra’s disapproval, the following day I made it my mission to visit Sant’Eustachio‘s. As the guides suggested, it was virtually just behind the Pantheon, and the location itself already suggested I was in for a treat.

The place was heaving, with the outside tables – half a dozen of them – all occupied. I bravely entered and placed myself in the three- or four-person queue, which however was served quickly by a rather bored and uninviting looking cashier – another feature one gets used to in Italy. Having skipped breakfast for the purposes of the exercise (which was – to indulge in another Italian cornetto), I was on the lookout for a scrumptious pastry, but all they seemed to have of the sort were apple Danish or croissant miniatures, at a rather shocking price of 1euro per piece – the average price of a normal sized one. I took one nevertheless and moved to pick up my coffee.

The queue by the espresso took longer to deal with, mainly because of all the people that were standing there just drinking. When a couple finally finished their macchiatos (I mean, how long can it take to drink a macchiato?!), I jumped in their place and soon I was served a lovely marocchino, covered in chocolate.

Marocchino at Sant’Eustachio

I found myself a quieter space – a bar table with no chairs just by the entrance – and took a minute to take in the lovely view: the small coffee and small pastry embodied the la dolce vita idea beautifully. I finally took a sip of my coffee – and I knew straight away why Ambra was shocked that I hadn’t gone there in the first instance. Velvety texture and lovable sweetness with a harmonious caffeine kick… It was that good, that I asked for another one – and it might just be me, but I thought the cashier gave me a surprised look just then.

Only at that second time by the bar I was asked the question that I had been expecting, having done my research prior to visiting: “Con zucchero?”. It is a common practice at Sant’Esustachio to put sugar in the coffees, often without asking the customer. This must have been the case with my marocchino at the first go, as my second coffee was as sweet as the first one. Of course I said “yes”, I was on holiday after all!

As for the little pastry – well, it contributed to my decision to have a second coffee, as it proved to be a mouthful – and a rather delicious one. What I took for a croissant was sort of a cannolo, disguised for a cornetto: a fried pastry filled with sweet ricotta cheese. The sweetness was overpowering, and the strong coffee balanced it perfectly; but it was also one of the tastiest sweet sensations I have ever experienced.

Cannolo Siciliano
Photo Source: Wikipedia

Sant’Eustachio is not only a cafe with long tradition of serving great quality coffee, it also offers a selection of beans to buy that had been roasted on the premisses in the same way since its establishment in the late 1930s. A historic landmark in its own right in the heart of historic Rome – coffee hardly gets better than this.

http://www.santeustachioilcaffe.it/en/

Categories: Cafes, Italy, Rome, Travel Log | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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