No (Cup of) Joe Shmoe


By Bailey Calfee; Photography by Katelyn Landis


With National Cappuccino Day on the horizon (it’s November 8th, in case you were wondering), it would be sacrilege to celebrate with a corner-store cup of joe, and while authenticity surrounding our favorite espresso-based drink is, sadly, often lacking in the States, Italian restauranteur and New York transplant Luca Di Pietro ensures his tastes “just like Italy.” The founder of Tarallucci e Vino, Di Pietro has been in the coffee business for years— controlling a US subsidiary of an Italian coffee company before opening his NYC café chain— not to mention, he knows true Italian coffee culture because he grew up in its midst. “It’s all about conviviality—order your espresso or cappuccino at the bar and start a conversation with the barista,” he says. “It’s a little taste, a way to stop for a moment before diving into your day. You have a quick coffee, maybe a little pastry… it’s a way of life.”


Owner Luca Di Pietro with his morning cappuccino.

And so it is at Tarallucci e Vino— with rows of house-made pastries by morning and plates of salumi e formaggi by night, each of its four locations feels worlds away from Manhattan, which, of course, bodes well for the coffee. A combination of quality ingredients and exacting proportions, Di Pietro lays out the rules for proper drinking etiquette, plus the recipe for the perfect cappuccino below.

1.  Cappuccino should be drunk in the morning. “In Italy, people will look at you very strangely if you have a cappuccino after 11 am. Milk-based coffees are reserved for morning and breakfast. You have espresso in the afternoon or after a meal.”

2. Cappuccino is to be consumed immediately. “It needs to be made expressly for you and it is supposed to be drunk quickly so as not to lose its crema or the foam on top— this is why coffee purists [in Italy] stand at the bar.”

3. There is such a thing as too much caffeine. “Many of the new-wave coffee shops make their espresso and cappuccino with 18-20 grams of coffee so you’re getting two-to-three times the caffeine of a traditional espresso in the same amount of liquid,” says Di Pietro. “The ratio is incredibly high and can result in coffee that is over-extracted and bitter. At Tarallucci e Vino, we use Italian coffee prepared the traditional way because we believe that coffee should be a pick-me-up that tastes good without being bitter or [jitters-inducing].”

4. It comes down to a matter of proportions. The perfect cappuccino consists of 1/4 espresso, 3/4 frothed milk. Espresso is prepared first, then combined with steamed milk and foam and served in a cappuccino cup garnished with a dash of cinnamon.

At Tarallucci e Vino, Di Pietro uses Lavazza Top Class Espresso Blend (a blend of Brazilian, Arabica, Colombian and Java beans), the Cimbali M39 Dosatron to brew and fresh, organic Ronybrook milk to finish it off. And for those who like a more substantial breakfast with their morning cup, the café’s fresh, sustainable cuisine is of the same quality. On a recent visit, we tried their signature Uova dish, a satisfying bowl of four-minute eggs, roasted butternut squash and potatoes in brown butter, sage and thyme, as well as a flaky almond croissant because “when in Rome…,” no?


The coffee bar at 18th Street.


The Cimbali coffee machine.




Tarallucci e Vino, 15 E 18th St., 212.228.5400; CP


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