The Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Naples Feature

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Naples is for Coffee Lovers

Espresso was invented here and is still considered by the Neapolitans to be an essential and priceless part of their cultural patrimony (the word espresso, by the way, should probably be understood here in its meaning "pressed out," rather than the more common interpretation of "quick"). Even Italian bars (meaning coffee bars) are generally tied to a coffee roaster–distributor, as English pubs once were with brewers. The sponsoring brand is indicated with a sign on the outside, so you can choose your bar by looking for the sign of your favorite brand. Brands tend to be highly regional; the most widely advertised Neapolitan brand is Kimbo, but Moreno, Salimbene, and Tico are considered superior by those in the know. Some small, family-run cafés still roast their own.

You won't find any double low-fat mochas with extra vanilla, though there are certain permitted variations: corretto, with a shot of grappa or the local moonshine thrown in; al vetro, in a glass; macchiato, "stained" with a burst of steamed milk; and, of course, cappuccino. On the whole, coffee is a Neapolitan sacred ritual with precise rules. Cappuccino, for instance, is essentially a breakfast beverage, accepted in the afternoon with a pastry but looked strangely at after a meal (some claim it's bad for the liver). Many Italians like to order a glass of water (bicchiere d'acqua) with their coffee as a chaser. Coffee is perhaps the one feature of life in which Neapolitans don't gild the lily. As with so much about the traditional cuisine here, why fix what works?

Updated: 2014-04-14

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