Thursday, June 26, 2008

How to spot a tourist in a cappuccino bakery.

In 2006, while traveling with friends through Northern Italy, we learned how Venetians spot non-Italians in any cappuccino bar.

Just as many Americans eagerly anticipate that first aromatic sip of modified or straight espresso, (not "x-presso"!), in some recognizable form, the Italians elevate the whole pleasurable experience to the next plane, right before your eyes.
As we stood in line to order four cappuccinos and two twisty-thing pastries, my wife said:
"I'll get us a table," which there were plenty of. Seeing the bakery nearly packed with standing or leaning customers, I figured they weren't sitting at tables because the vaporetto (Venice's water commuter busses) , would soon be arriving and these well-heeled business folks wanted to be "out th' door" the nanosecond it arrived...just like back home.
"No!" my friend said. He then casually brought the four of us into a small huddle formation and revealed: "It costs noticeably more to sit at a table."
So, there I stand, not wanting to have anything to do with trying to balance my camera, shoulder bag, a saucer and steaming cup of cappuccino, plus my half of a twisty-thing pastry, while being expected to enjoy what my taste buds were going through withdrawal for.
My first thought was to volunteer: "Hey, since this is Janet's and my first trip to Venice, I'll get the table tab!" I mean, come on, we're on vacation from the exact situation we see standing and leaning around us, how far do we have to go to try to "fit in"? But if I did that, I feared our
Italian friend and his wife might be embarrassed and/or worse, offended. So, relying on my emergency backup tactic whenever I find myself straddling th ol' social fau paux razor blade, I immediately looked at my wife for a timely and perfect solution, and in true Marshalltown, Iowa form, she responded right on cue,(with a tip of her hat to the vaporetto captain), by announcing: "Oh, Look! Another vaporetto is pulling up!"
Before she could get the complete sentence out, the entire bakery, except for about seven of us customers, was now vacant, allowing us to casually secure a table to enjoy our order while seated, plus remove any possible embarrassment that your friends might have had to endure. t had nothing to do with money, but everything to do with "When in Rome/Venice..."
Once seated, the first thing I noticed, was the cinnamon "heart" that the Barista had created atop each cappuccino. The second thing I noticed, was that none were served with a tiny spoon, which I commented on. Allyson said: "Italians don't use a spoon. That's an American thing, to which Carl added: "And if the barista made your cappuccino correctly, that heart shape should still be intact when it gets to the bottom of your cup." As you can see, this barista knew her beanness.

James L. Weaver
June 2008

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