Il barista italiano: a national resource

May 11, 2021

This was the title of a story I wrote a few years back for the Rome daily, Il Messaggero, and from the feedback I had I am inclined to believe that every barista in Rome thought I was writing about him (yes, there are women bariste but they are still a minority).

This is the kind of place you want to avoid

If you are – like me – someone used to having her first coffee of the day outside the house, the barista’s attitude can have a significant impact on the rest of your day and therefore anyone sulking or in a bad mood is definitely to be avoided.

You want someone who greets you warmly with a smile and hopefully with your name. In Rome, you also want a barista who is good at the making the sarcastic jibes that Romans are known for. (Luigi, a former actor, is originally from Puglia but he has been in Rome long enough to blend in!) And you want him to be able to tell when you are not in a good mood and, in short, to care (or at least to appear to do so!).

My Bar for the last 25 years

Most importantly, along with his good humor, you want to have one of those incredibly savvy baristi (or bariste) who seem to be able to remember what everyone’s favorite brew is. So often you don’t even have to order. In my case, as I walk inside, they usually ask me “americano o lungo”?  because I vary between the two depending on 1) what time it is and 2) whether I have time to sit and nurse an americano or if I am hurrying off to some appointment.


One of Luigi’s predecessor’s at Bar del Cinque in Vicolo del Cinque in Trastevere,  the mythical Giancarlo, now retired, often had my caffè lungo waiting for me on the counter because he could see me from his window as I walked the 100 meters from my building.  And what about the time when I was sipping my coffee that he asked “how is it you are here today? It’s Friday. Aren’t you supposed to be at the hairdresser????”

But, of course, he was not totally unique. An American girlfriend who had moved back to New York after years in Rome came back for a visit two years later and stopped by the caffé in Via dei Giubbonari (down the road from Campo de’ Fiori) where she always used to have her morning coffee. As I said, two years had gone by. But when she walked in the barman did not miss a beat. “Buongiorno Signorina, Your usual cappuccino?”

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