Friday, January 26, 2018

My First Espresso

Montréal Memories

Italian Moca Pot: Making espresso in a caffettiera (“coffee maker”) on the stove-top is the old-fashioned way to make espresso, the way that millions of Italians continue to make it. Later on, I purchases such a caffettiera.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

My first espresso was not at a café, but at someone’s house, prepared by an Italian mother the old-fashioned way on the stove-top. It was at the house of my class-mate, Danny M. It was 1976 or 1977, when we were both students in pure and applied sciences at Dawson College’s Lafontaine campus in Montreal’s east end. We became quick friends; and he asked me if I had ever tried an Italian espresso. I said I hadn’t.

Classes ended early, so we hopped into his black  Pontiac Trans-Am (or it might have been a Chevy Camaro) and quickly drove to his house situated in or around Montrea’'s Little Italy neighbourhood, where prominently sits a large farmer’s market, Jean-Talon Market (Marché Jean-Talon). The area is busy and bustling, as there are a number of excellent cafés, bakeries, and restaurants.

Sitting at the kitchen table, I looked at the black brew in small cups. Danny and his mother suggested that as a novice I might want to put in a couple of cubes of sugar. I did and took a sip. It was wonderful. I quickly downed the whole cup, saying this was the best coffee I had ever tasted. This was no lie. I whispered to Danny if I could have another, if it wasn’t too much trouble, that is.

Well, Danny's mother was more than happy to oblige; and she quickly prepared it on the stove-top. This other cup was also quickly enjoyed by me, and I soon felt the effects of the double shot of caffeine. His mother said something in Italian to Danny, who translated to me that she said something to the effect that now I “was an honorary Italian.” Danny smiled; his mother smiled. I smiled.

This was my introduction to Italian espresso; while I have had many excellent espressos in Montreal cafes and elsewhere, including in New York City and in Providence, Rhode Island (where I had one of the best Italian meals of any restaurant I have visited), this was the most memorable. I understand why this happens. We tend to remember our first experiences with fondness, notably if they were positive and good.


  1. A friend who had recently arrived from China went with me to an Italian restaurant. At the end of the meal, we each ordered an espresso. Before tasting it, he put in two spoons of sugar. He took a sip and said, "Oh my goodness!" He put in a third spoon of sugar, took another sip, and again said, "Oh my goodness." He put in a fourth spoon, tasted it, and said "Hen ku" (very bitter). He didn't try to drink any more of it.

    1. His experience was the opposite of mine, but then again China is primarily a nation of tea drinkers.


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