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In Naples, Reviving The Misplaced Espresso Brewing Technique Of “La Cuccuma”

cuccuma naples three parts of cuccuma at cuccuma caffe molly fitzpatrick

“First you might have a chunk of cake, then you might have some water, and THEN you drink the espresso.”

These are the phrases informed to me by Giuseppe Schisano, proprietor of Don Café Road Artwork Espresso within the Italian metropolis of Naples. Used to sipping my espresso from a tiny cup, I used to be stunned that the espresso I used to be about to drink—ready in a standard Neapolitan flip pot—got here with so many steps.

A lifetime espresso lover, Schisano was impressed to open a cell espresso cart after seeing one in Copenhagen. He wished to do the identical within the Quarter Spagnoli of Naples, the place he was born and raised, however with a twist: he would use the flip pot, recognized in Italian as la caffettiera napoletana, or colloquially, la cuccuma or la cuccumella.

The origins of the pot might be traced to France, the place percolators had been patented within the early 1800s. When the design reached Naples, native artisans made it their very own, producing variations that differed in form, measurement, and materials—the Neapolitan desire was for tin or aluminum, somewhat than France’s costlier copper. It unfold quickly all through town, and at one level turned synonymous with espresso tradition within the metropolis of Naples.

cuccuma naples manuele schisano at don cafe mobile cart molly fitzpatrick

Requiring time, cash, and persistence, cuccuma-prepared espresso embodies hospitality. This notion of serving espresso as an act of care continues to be discovered within the metropolis’s custom of caffè sospeso, or suspended espresso, which permits prospects to pay for an additional cup at sure bars, so somebody who can’t afford to pay can nonetheless get pleasure from one. It additionally lives within the Neapolitan custom of ’o cuonzolo, derived from the Italian consolare, to console, which consists of bringing foodstuffs to individuals who have suffered a loss. Schisano shared a vivid reminiscence from his teen years of individuals bringing espresso and sugar to his household’s home when his father handed away, as a part of that custom. The scent of espresso on that day, he informed me, left a mark on him.

Rising up within the Quartieri Spagnoli wasn’t straightforward, Schisano tells me. This neighborhood was as soon as thought of fairly harmful, and lots of who grew up right here lacked job alternatives. Schisano discovered varied positions within the meals service trade, finally transferring to Germany for work. After his stint there, he took that inspiring journey to Copenhagen.

Schisano wanted assist to get the funding and permits he wanted, however due to the assist of two organizations (If-ImparareFare and Caritas), he was mentored in enterprise and secured a mortgage for a bicycle-powered cart in 2018 to serve espresso to locals and guests alongside Through Toledo, the principle thoroughfare of the Quartieri.

Consistent with the native coffee-as-hospitality custom, Schisano asks for donations solely at his cart, the place his youthful brother, Manuele, additionally works. “Some folks depart 5 or 6 euros, some folks depart 20 cents, they usually’re thanked in the identical method,” Schisano informed me.

The cart’s success allowed him to open a bodily location within the Quartieri earlier this yr, which serves meals, drinks and, in fact, espresso from una cuccuma. He hopes to broaden his enterprise additional and plans to serve different sorts of espresso, and to launch an internet store the place folks should purchase his mix and their very personal flip pot.

cuccuma naples exterior don cafe physical location molly fitzpatrick

In 2019, Achille Munari, an Umbrian transplant to Naples, opened a restaurant a few kilometer away from Schisano’s cart. Not like Schisano, Munari was not significantly captivated with espresso all through his life, however he was touched when his Neapolitan mates ready it for him in a standard flip pot for the primary time. He was struck by the care that it took and the concept it was to be sipped slowly, somewhat than consumed as a fast, energizing exclamation level after a meal. He even determined to call his cafe after it, and so the Cuccuma Caffè was born.

“Immediately, we now have espresso in Italy, which is quick, whereas the previous Neapolitan espresso is sluggish,” Munari tells me. We’re chatting collectively simply after the tip of a lunch shift (the cafe serves family-style platters of spaghetti and pastries). “It wasn’t only a method to take a break and have a pick-me-up, it was a method of spending time collectively. I didn’t need this custom to be misplaced, so when folks have time, they’ll come right here and sit calmly, drink some water earlier than having their espresso, speak, and calm down. That’s Neapolitan espresso—dialog and spending time collectively.”

His dedication to the pot and custom shines via within the cafe’s decor, which incorporates knickknacks and il Museo della Cuccuma (the Cuccuma Museum)—a group of vintage flip pots of differing sizes and styles.

cuccuma naples cuccuma museum at cuccuma caffe molly fitzpatrick

La cuccuma was finally largely changed in houses throughout Italy with Alfonso Bialetti’s quicker Moka Specific, patented in 1933. The 2 share some similarities. Like a moka, la cuccuma has three parts—a filter, a water chamber, and a pot with a spout, however in contrast to a moka, which counts on steam stress to make espresso, la cuccuma depends on gravity.

The 1st step for making espresso in una cuccuma is filling the water chamber. Subsequent, espresso is spooned into the filter. The filter is closed with a lid after which put into the water chamber. The pot is turned the other way up and secured on prime of the water chamber, which is then positioned on the warmth. When steam and droplets of water begin to come out of the spout, the entire machine is flipped over in order that the water passes via the filter and the espresso drips into the pot. Historically, a paper cone, known as il cuppetiello, is put over the spout whereas ready for gravity to do its job.

It is strongly recommended that the espresso be drunk as is, even if many Neapolitans may take their their espresso with added sugar. Each Schisano and Munari defined that there’s no want for sugar when consuming una cuccuma as a result of the gentler percolation course of helps promote a easy aftertaste. As an example, Schisano used a distinct instance from Neapolitan delicacies. “It’s like how fried pizza and oven-baked pizza are made with the identical dough, however cooked in a different way, which supplies them a distinct style.”

cuccuma naples achille munari at cuccuma caffe molly fitzpatrick

After the cake and water, I examined the espresso in its little glass. The brown foam and silky shine of espresso had been absent. “Strive it,” Schisano urged, “earlier than it will get chilly!” The espresso was delicate, flavorful, and easy, with completely no want for sugar. And maybe most significantly, you may style the connectivity and historical past, the hospitality and traditions of Naples, when consuming espresso made on this stunning, complicated Italian metropolis’s native favourite brewing technique. The necessary factor is to get pleasure from it as meant: slowly, and in good firm.

Molly Fitzpatrick is a Rome-based author and the creator of Baggage and Life. That is Molly Fitzpatrick’s first function for Sprudge.



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