03 May 2011

n.d.p. in roma: gran caffé de balduina, etc.

It's not wine-related, but I'm unable to resist posting a small word of appreciation for the under-sung merits of the modest Italian café breakfast. Our first morning in Rome we assembled one at the tent-like café space beside the house where we stayed on the Viale delle Medaglie d'Oro. The following morning was Sunday, and the closure of the tent-space obliged us to wander far up same road until we struck gold at the wonderful, completely unremarkable Gran Caffé de Balduina.* 

The staff were shortly to shut up shop there, too, but offered no protest as the Native Companion and I ordered squishy donut-like croissants, a ham and mozzarella panino, two café lattés, two spremuti d'arancia, and a towering bottle of sparkling water. 

Yes, this combination of foodstuffs can be had equally at Rome Termini station or Fiumicino Airport. Even Ciampino. It remains satisfying at those less-than-ideal locations. I think it's because every element of this repast is in itself a minor hangover corrective; when taken as a whole they constitute a veritable apothecary shop for one's bleary-eyed afternoon satisfaction. 

Each element contains also an appealing tension between outright commodification and certain non-negotiable (for Italians) standards of quality: the coffee is industrial but expertly prepared, the pre-assembled panini from God-knows-where are pressed to order, the juice is freshly-squeezed by baroque machines...

All of these things are improved greatly if you transfer them to an outside deck space (another characteristic native priority, these pokey leisure areas) in the middle of a tiny parking lot, and sit nibbling and smoking in the sunlight amongst various grandmothers, grandfathers, and their newspapers. 

* Balduina, where we stayed, is a fairly sleepy area in northwestern Rome, comprised largely of apartment blocks perched on hills overlooking Vatican City. 

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