Now that the topic of coffee has been thoroughly discussed in Part 1, what do Italians actually eat for breakfast when they go out?
As you can see from the photographs on this page, Italians prefer something sweet not savory first thing in the morning. But as Elena will readily acknowledge, the cornetto (a sort of croissant) and brioche that you will see in most bars are not uniformly great everywhere in Italy.
In the bigger towns and cities you will always be able to find somewhere where the quality and freshness of the pastries are excellent and very often this will be in an historical and
traditional coffee bar and you will be able to tell in an instant just be walking in and looking at the freshly made items on offer.
The photographs here were taken in Caffetteria Stella just outside the centro storico in Lucca, which is a pasticceria rather than just a coffee bar, an important difference. The vast majority of bars in Italy will serve great coffee but are not pasticcerie and therefore they will either source their pastries from a local pasticceria or buy them frozen and you'll never really know which until you've ordered something and tried it. So if a really good breakfast pastry is part of the whole holiday experience for you, try to find somewhere that actually says pasticceria on the sign outside and has an array of products similar to the photographs above and below.
And by the way, once the pastries are gone that's it until tomorrow so even though I was at Stella quite early, the pastries were already starting to disappear and the choice was narrowing.
When Elena originally wrote this article it was written for Italian language students and you can find it in the Language section under Italian Speakers Club. She goes into depth there about the different regional Italian names for a croissant and a brioche, but if you're here reading this in English and not there reading it in Italian, I suggest you always ask for a 'cornetto' when you mean a croissant and if you want something else then simply point. I still do that myself sometimes when I'm in an unfamiliar part of Italy.
The cornetto however is not the same as the fresh buttery croissant that you find in France, and here it will often be made with eggs, so it is not the same thing at all as a French croissant which contains lots of butter, but no eggs. Though both were originally derived from the Viennese pastry kipfel, the French adapted their version to include more butter, probably because dairy and butter have always been plentiful in France, but not so much in Italy.
More important perhaps than the baking ingredients is the choice of what you can have for the filling in the middle of the cornetto and there is normally a good selection, including some or all of the following:
Vuoto (empty), which means no added filling
Frutti di bosco (berries), means a raspberry or blackcurrant jam filling
Albicocca (apricot), means an apricot jam filling and is very popular with Italians
Crema (cream), means a custard cream filling
Cioccolato (chocolate) means some type of chocolate cream filling which may be Nutella but not always
Pistacchio (pistachio), means a green pistachio flavored cream filling
I'm not sure why it has taken two articles, lots of photographs and diagrams and I don't know how many words to describe the simple breakfast that you see below, but when it comes to the Italian morning ritual nothing is ever very simple.
The good news of course is that you don't have to worry too much about food at breakfast in Italy because after a couple of days of excellent lunches and dinners you will start thinking like an Italian in the morning and give all your attention to the coffee.