05 DEC 2017: When Starbucks announced that they were launching stores in Italy over the next few years I thought it was a joke. The very thought of the American coffeehouse chain percolating into the country where moka pots sit on every household stove is not just bold, but grande bold.  

Truthfully, I love Starbucks. If I drink a coffee outside of my home, it is Starbucks. But given a choice, I would opt for a big gulp from a tiny cup of rich coffee standing in a bar in Milan, in Gucci shoes. My driver (Fabio) would be waiting outside in a Lamborghini. My hair would be thick and black and backcombed in a sexy and reckless way, and before scarfing down my scalding beverage, I would say in a smouldering voice (with an authentic Italian accent), “ti penso ogni giorno” (I think of you every day).

Sorry, where were we?

Right, the Italians have got this ‘coffee’ thing. They have had a rich and rewarding relationship with coffee since the 16th century. And in Italy, like other European countries you drink your coffee from a demi tasse or short porcelain cup. No cardboard, no sleeve, no lid.

One of the joys of travelling through Europe is the lack of over-flowing trash bins in a culture that does not embrace take-out food and packaging. So yes, it is easy to appreciate their furor this summer when Italian municipalities resorted to power washing tourists from the steps of their cathedrals who were eating lunch and leaving their disposable packaging on the grounds of their places of worship.

Wait until they see the carcasses from the trenta cups. Che schifo (how disgusting).

The other trend that would seem out of place in Italy is the ‘tips’ cup sitting in front of the cash register. First of all tipping is not always expected in most Italian establishments, let alone when your visit includes, lining up to order, having to go to a station to add milk, then returning an empty canister to the barista and waiting for a new one to take it back to the station to add the milk before covering it with a lid.

There is something arrogant about the Seattle coffee company taking their business and plans for 300 retail outlets to a country that has perfected the coffee experience.

I am not sure how they will be received in Italy, and I doubt that coffee purists wielding high pressure-washers will confront them.

But, would it be so terrible if a bunch of rogue nonnas wearing aprons and hairnets descended on the shops waving their wooden spoons, yelling ‘va via’ (Go away)?

 

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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini delivers her original spin on alternate Tuesdays in her column Without Reservations. (Formerly titled, Notes from A Broad)

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