“Un Caff.” and an Alfredo Sauce Recipe


“Maybe it’s because I grew up bilingual but I always took a great interest in words. It was always a language challenge to grow up in a bilingual household. The spoken word was not always what it was meant to be. So much so, that I would always double check before something came out of my mouth whether it was English or Italian. But what was even more perplexing was the written word, for example, the restaurant menu. As a little girl I would often hear the wait staff ordering demitasse. Like what the heck is demitasse?  I looked on an old 1960’s menu and there it was “Italian Demitasse for two”!  Demitasse is the French word for small cup. It also the word used for serving coffee in a small cup. I read somewhere that demitasse is also the name for Turkish coffee. But why would an Italian restaurant run by Italian immigrants refer to espresso as demitasse?  As the years went by, demitasse was soon replaced on the restaurant menu as expresso!! What was going on?  Was it a typo from the printers? I do remember everyone calling it expresso. Didn’t they know how to pronounce espresso?  Was this typo causing customers and wait staff to pronounce it wrong?  Even at that young age I accepted  that everyone was language challenged! Maybe the reason the wait staff referred to coffee as either brown or black was to avoid mispronouncing espresso!

Through research I found that it was the norm in Italian restaurants to spell espresso with an x until the 70’s when there was a huge revolt. So it wasn’t a typo! Ordering an expresso in the 1970’s was so cringe worthy to baristas that they would wear t-shirts with the “There is no X in espresso!” slogan. So in the 70’s the restaurant menu went through another metamorphosis and listed  Italian coffee as espresso. Phew! It took a few years but all is right with the world now!

All this fuss over an espresso. In Italy it is quite simple. They don’t even say espresso!  Italians elbow themselves up to a coffee bar utter a greeting followed by “un caff.”. It is served quickly in a very tiny cup filled half way up with rich dark coffee and a layer of foam. The Italian without sitting, downs the espresso and is on his way. Oh wait!  Is that why in America it’s referred to as express….o?

Oh!  By the way, expresso is served in Spain, Portugal and France. But let it be known that the way espresso is made was invented and perfected in Italy. So it’s settled!  Espresso it is!!!”

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See our Alfredo Sauce recipe.