To live in Italy, one must do more than drink coffee. One must understand coffee. When you visit Italy, order a coffee in one of the following ways:
Caffe. This is the most common yet the most shocking to Americans. It is a simple shot of espresso that fills about a third of a small cup just a bit bigger than a thimble. I still enjoy watching Americans’ jaws drop when they see it and ask, “Where’s the rest of it?” This isn’t Starbucks, Bubba. Thank God.
Caffe macchiato. This is halfway between a caffe and a cappuccino. It’s a caffe stained with a little spot of milk. Pronounce it correctly, mock-ee-OTTO, and you’ll be treated like a local.
Cappuccino. The classic Italian coffee. Espresso coffee covered in warm milk then topped with creamy foam, it is the perfect way to start the Italian day. Please note the word “start.” Do NOT, even if the craving eats at you like a heroin withdrawal, order a cappuccino after noon. Only tourists do that. Yes, you’re a tourist. Just don’t act like a stupid one.
Cappuccino ben caldo. “Ben caldo” means “extra hot.” This is my favorite. Italians like to drink their coffee fast and don’t like it so hot it singes their tongues like American coffee. I like mine with a newspaper.
Marochino. A small cappuccino sprinkled with chocolate, popular with Italian teen-agers and wimpy American expats.
Ristretto. A shorter shot of espresso and isn’t much more than a sip. It should not be confused with ristretto’s other meaning: What happens to a man’s penis when he comes out of the cold Adriatic Sea.
Americano. A long black coffee that, in more than three years in Rome over two stints, I have never seen an Italian order unless he lost a bet.