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What to order at a cafe in Rome: A quick guide to Italian coffee

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Rome coffee bar
What'll it be? A coffee bar in Rome. Photo: FoxKat

By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—

If there’s something to be said about Italians, one thing’s for certain, they sure know how to churn out a good cup of coffee.

Just about everywhere you turn in Rome, behind every nook, cranny and yes, monument, you will find a coffee bar. To say that Italians are obsessed with coffee is an understatement. And who could blame them? The cappuccinos are just that good.

Amateur coffee drinkers might think there are only two types of java to be ordered in Italy: a cappuccino or espresso (caffè). But nooooo. True caffè connoisseurs know that the best part about Italian coffee is the variety.

Here’s a breakdown of some different types of coffees you will find at a typical bar in Rome:

Cappuccino (“kap-oo-chee-noh”)

Cappuccino in Rome

Roman cappuccino. Photo: Veer66

The first and the most classic coffee drink on your list is of course, the cappuccino. It is made with espresso, hot milk and a layer of froth on top. No whip cream, sorry! (That’s an American added ingredient. However, you still may be able to order it in some of the more touristy spots in Rome.) Some people have chocolate powder sprinkled on top or a squirt of chocolate syrup on top. Typically, Italians drink a cappuccino in the morning. Never in the afternoon.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.80-€1.20

Caffè (“kaf-ey”)

If you want to order an espresso at the bar, you’ll need to ask for “un caffè.” At the bar, a caffè is prepared using an electrical steam machine. Often when serving your caffè, they’ll throw in a small complimentary wrapped chocolate with it.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.70-€.80

Caffè macchiato (“kaf-ey mok-ee-aw-toh”)

The term “caffè macchiato” means literally a coffee “stained with milk.” Essentially, it’s an espresso with a shot of milk. Unlike cappuccinos, Italians find it perfectly acceptable to order a caffè or caffè macchiato after lunch.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.70-€.80

Caffè lungo (“kaf-ey loon-goh”)

A caffè lungo is a shot of espresso that is stretched out and made with more water. It’s not as strong as the regular espresso, as more water has passed through it.This is not the same thing as a “caffè americano,” which is a shot of espresso with hot water added to it afterwards.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.70-€.80

Caffè ristretto (“kaf-ey ree-stray-toh”)

A caffè ristretto is a much shorter coffee than your average espresso, as it allows for less water to pass through the coffee grinds.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.70-€.80

Caffè corretto (“kaf-ey koh-rray-toh”)

For the brave ones looking for a little bit of jolt in their java, there is the caffè corretto (a “corrected coffee”). It is essentially a shot of espresso with a shot of liquor inside. Typically grappa, sambuca or brandy is used. And yes, some people do have this at breakfast!

*Average price if taken at the bar: €1.50-€2

Caffè latte (“kaf-ey lah-tay”)

A caffè latte is simply a coffee drink made with espresso and steamed milk (no froth). Unlike in the States, if you order a “latte” at the bar in Italy they will give you just that. A glass of milk. So, remember to ask for a “caffè latte.”

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.80-€1.20

Latte Macchiato

Latte macchiato (“lah-tay mok-ee-aw-toh”)

Want a whole lot of milk and just a tad bit of coffee? What you want is a latte macchiato. This is a glass of steamed milk with a stain (about a half of a shot of espresso). This drink is different than the caffè latte as the coffee is added to the milk and not the other way around. Another difference is that the caffè latte is usually stirred or mixed, whereas the latte macchiato resembles a drink with layers.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.80-€1.20

Caffè marocchino (“kaf-ey mah-roh-kee-noh”)

A shot of espresso made with powdered chocolate with a little bit of milk poured on top, followed by a dabble of whipped cream. Yum!

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.80-€1.20

Caffè freddo (“kaf-ey frey-doh”)

A shot of espresso that’s pre-sweetened with sugar or sometimes even vanilla while still hot. It is then chilled in the refrigerator. It can be served with or without a cube of ice.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €0.90-€1

Caffè del nonno (“kaf-ey del noh-noh”)

This is a small refreshing coffee drink that’s usually served in the spring and summer. It’s made with pre-sweetened espresso and whipped cream that’s chilled in the freezer for a couple of hours. It’s then thrown in a blender and served in a small espresso-like glass.

*Average price if taken at the bar: €1.80-€2

My favorite coffee bars in central Rome

Here are some of my personal favorite bars in the historic center of Rome where you can order most, if not all of these coffees. Some fancy, some not. But each one makes really, really good coffee.

Caffè Camerino
Largo Arenula, 30 (Largo Argentina)
00186 Rome

Bar Amore
Via dei Banchi Nuovi, 41 (Piazza Navona)
00186 Rome

Antico Caffè della Pace
Via della Pace, 3/7 (Piazza Navona)
00186 Rome

l’Antico Caffè della Pigna
Piazza della Pigna, 24/A (Pantheon)
00186 Rome

Caffè Tazza D’Oro
Via degli Orfani, 84 (Pantheon)
00186 Rome

Caffè Novecento
Via del Governo Vecchio, 12 (Piazza Navona)
00186 Rome

About the author

Nicole Arriaga

About the author: After her first trip to the Bel Paese in 1999, Nicole Arriaga knew she would one day return permanently in search of the good life. Before moving to Rome in 2003, Nicole worked as a TV producer and a writer in sunny Miami. She has written for Fodor’s, Insight Guides, The American and various other travel publications. She currently works as a freelance writer and as a programs coordinator for a study abroad organization in Rome.

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2 Responses to “What to order at a cafe in Rome: A quick guide to Italian coffee”

Great article. I am leaving for Rome with a group of 22 tomorrow. I will be sure to stop in at a cafe and follow your advice and report back to you. Look for my trip reports on my website.

Sergio il barista says:

Eccellente lavoro etnografico, vorrei aggiungere la regola d’oro per fare un buon espresso.
“La regola del 25”: un buon espresso è composto di 25 ml di caffè che deve uscire dalla macchina in 25 secondi. Questa regola garantisce che il livello di macinatura del grano di caffè sia l’appropriato.
Per un espresso buono ma un po’ diverso del solito ti consiglio il caffè San Eustachio che dal 1938 si trova a Piazza Sant’Eustachio, 82 http://www.santeustachioilcaffe.it/
Brava Nicole!

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