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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Italians take over a bar in the Eixample

So I’m sitting at the bar in a place called Café Paris drinking my first coffee for the day. It’s the standard layout: huge plasma television above mounted on the wall to broadcast football games, aluminum bar, an array of tapas, everybody still smoking …

A group of Italians walk in. The guys are older, about forty to fifty, and have the aura of porn directors. Or maybe it’s just their cheesy Italian style. Soft leather boots, tight brand name jeans, greased back hair – basically the macho ibérico look but slightly more stylish. In tow are their girlfriends, easily half their ages, pretty like so many Italian women, yet somehow incongruous to their male counterparts. I wonder, how do these guys do it?

They order cappuccinos in a mix of Italian and English. The barmaid, a sour-looking woman with a stained, once-white smock, shakes her head and says she can’t do it. She can’t make a proper cappuccino she says. The Italians are adamant. They must have cappuccinos even if they're in the Café Paris in Barcelona. One of the Italian girls says - in Spanglish - that she works in a bar in Italy. This give her a certain aura of credibility. Like anything Italian designed is stylish, an Italian who works in the food industry is automatically a gourmand. She walks to the other side of the counter and proceeds to make four cappuccinos, the Italian way.

Which is not what I was taught when I worked in a bar here. It is not just espresso powder on top of a small coffee with milk, with lots of foam. The trick is, I observe, before pouring the foam, to add the espresso powder and then pour the foam on that. So she draws a heart shape with the powder and pours the foam on top of that. When the foam is poured there is a kind of bas-relief heart in the middle of it. It's slightly hortera, but since she's Italian she must be right.


Later, after finishing the paper, I asked the barmaid why she let the Italian take over the espresso machine. She said it was because she never went to cappuccino school. Really. She was supposed to, but she never attended, so when real Italians come in she refuses to make cappuccinos. She's had numerous complaints from them. She was merely preempting a barrage of "porca miserias"!