If you’re ordering coffee in an Italian bar, it’s probably breakfast time or shortly after your meal so you can get un caffè to help your digestion. If it’s breakfast, expect a mainly-sweet food offering, heavy on the carbohydrates. Cornetti (cornetto sing.) or brioche are Italian croissants which are usually less buttery and more bread-like than French croissants. Pronunciation: cor-NEHT- toh If you want to eat a cornetto, you may be faced with a selection of them, including:
Vuoto or semplice – a plain or “empty / simple” cornetto with no filling.
a crema – pastry cream, a custard-like cream made with flour, milk, sugar, and eggs, and probably has added vanilla flavor, too.
alla marmellata – with jam inside. Usually this is albicocca, apricot jam.
Frutti di bosco, wild berries, is a popular alternative.
al cioccolato – with chocolate inside, this can be a crema pasticcera, pastry cream, made with flour, milk, and eggs. It might be Nutella, a chocolaty hazelnut spread, or a similar recipe.
alla Nutella – make no mistake, this is filled with Nutella.
integrale – not a very popular version, this cornetto is made with whole wheat flour. It might be plain or con miele with honey inside.
cornetto salato – even more rare to find, a cornetto that is more buttery bread than sweet, and it may have sandwich fillings (like prosciutto or salame) inside.
Other breakfast breads and pastries may include, depending on how much variety the bar has: krapfen or bombolone (cream or jelly-filled donuts), pain au chocolat (French pastry with chocolate inside), and muffins (American muffins are becoming quite popular and are found in different places, including highway-side Autogrill stores – mainly blueberry or chocolate versions).
You’ll probably also see a little display of prepackaged foods for breakfast in a bar or other food place for those who want to eat a plum cake – a small poundcake, brioche/cornetti can also be prepackaged (I suggest avoiding these if you can get the fresh ones), or biscotti (Italian cookies which are dry and made for soaking up that cappuccino! Not to be confused with the twice-baked cookies called “biscotti” in the US which are really cantuccini in Italy). You might see some fette biscottate, small slices of dry toast, ready to spread jam onto. Fette biscottate are a popular favorite for Italians eating breakfast at home.
If you’re desiring something to eat along with your coffee, you’ll want to note if it’s self-service (a display of pastries set aside from the bar and/or with with the case opening facing you) or if it’s something that you’ll need to order when you order when you give your coffee order (the pastries are behind a glass case or the counter).
A note on Drinking Coffee and Eating Breakfast at Home like an Italian
Most Italians go to the bar because they believe the coffee is better, and it’s espresso coffee. At home, most Italians use a moka pot which is a stovetop brewer of coffee made of aluminum or steel. The consistency is quite different from espresso, and usually is missing the crema cream finish from traditional espresso machines. Italians will add quite a bit of milk to the coffee from the moka for their breakfast and dunk the dry biscotti, cookies, in it or fette biscottate, dry toast. If you want to make “moka” at home, you will need the following:
Bialetti Moka Express (I suggest the 3-cup so you can offer to guests but not so much coffee that you’re wasting it if you’re alone) Fine ground Italian espresso coffee, like Illy, Kimbo, or Lavazza Demitasse/espresso cups A milk frother (if you want to make a simple cappuccino at home) As mentioned before, many Italians eat breakfast at home with caffè latte and fette biscottate, biscotti, plum cake, or even yogurt to start their day.