Saturday, June 2, 2007

Italian Counter Culture

Thursday morning, seeking a taste of Europe, I walked over to the Keltic Krust in West Newton, a bakery that my mother discovered after moving here many years ago. They make delicious buttery scones and I was hunkering after one. I decided to eat it there and ordered a cup of coffee to go with it. Sitting in the empty cafe, which was quiet except for the sound of a local radio station, I missed the noises of Italy's pasticcerias, where people drink their espresso and eat a pastry while standing at the counter chatting with the barrista, the saucers, cups and teaspoons gently clanging on the glass. Italians don't linger over their morning snack and as new customers enter, the barristas create the custom coffees, first placing the saucer on the counter - clang - then the cup filled with the brew - clang.

I discovered these sounds towards the end of my trip when, uninspired by the offering of individually packaged "toast" and average coffee at my bed & breakfast in Florence, I decided to eat where the locals were. For a few days I enjoyed my favorite panini - bresaola (dried beef), arugola, parmesan - and a macchiato, with the bustle of the barristas and clanging of cups as background music.

During my scone, the rain began to come down and, umbrellaless, I chose to wait it out. It was an opportunity to try another of their offerings - I chose a hot cross bun. While not hot, it was very tasty, denser and more filling than the scone. At the quiet counter I noticed another delicacy - a chocolate potato - which reminded me of a similarly named creation I ate in Venice. Remembering the dense, rich, alcohol-soaked confection I had enjoyed a few weeks ago and many miles away, I bought one to go, saving it for that evening.

If I needed a reality check that I was no longer in Europe, this potato was it. Dry and containing barely a hint of rum, it was more like a cocoa turd than the chocolate potato of Venice. Perhaps the Keltic Krust should stick to scones, and maybe I should, too.

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