Français… or Italiano?

Well it seems I’ve hit the part of my blog where I encounter a caffè that is more a café. Understand? I was questioning whether L’Espresso Bar Mercurio was more an Italian-style bar pasticceria or French/Parisian style café pâtisserie. Essentially they are the same but fundamentally very different. They both mean coffee shop and bakery in their respective languages, but there are significant differences between the French-style of enjoying coffee and the Italian modo di fare.

First of all, sorry to say, but the French drink Italian coffee, such as espresso, macchiato (both latte macchiato and caffè macchiato), they drink caffè ristretto, doppio, corto, cappuccino, corretto, and the list can go on. BUT, an Italian won’t drink a French coffee. You will find Italian coffee all over France but will be pressed to find French coffee in Italy. Italian coffee can be found all over the world but only Italian coffee can be found in Italy. You might say that the Italians are snooty with their coffee, and I agree. But coffee is deeply engrained in our culture.  The very fact that we use the word café over caffè to describe a coffee-shop–to me–seems insulting. No one can deny that the Italians are the masters of coffee. I don’t hear anyone spewing out French forms of coffee… besides café au lait… And please don’t take this as a rant against the French! I absolutely love everything France! Mais, parfois on doit dire la verité sur des choses…

Tying into this question of Italian versus French, a few evenings ago, a classmate of mine invited me for a coffee at L’espresso Bar Mercurio at 321 Bloor Street West. Upon arrival, I noticed a few things that made me immediately place into question the Italianità of this caffè. Although when you enter there is a beautiful vintage FIAT Cinquecento parked inside, the Italian-ness seemed to stop there. Have you ever been to, or seen a Parisian-style café? They tend to have a lot of elegant seating where people chit chat while sipping their beverages and enjoying their pâtisseries. I mentioned before in my Sud Forno post that Italians follow their own “Commandments”  (via The Telegraph) regarding coffee etiquette, which includes a quick, shot of coffee so they can get on with their day rather than sit down and drag it out, although Italians are also very social coffee drinkers, too. Obviously for the purpose of this blog I need to sit down and enjoy the place, so that commandment will have to continue being disobeyed…at least for now; but keep it in mind.

L’Espresso Bar Mercurio’s welcoming entrance!

The handsome Cinquecento I wanted to ride home.

L’Espresso Bar Mercurio had a variety of sweets to compliment their coffee but most of them were from the French culinary tradition–macarons, profiteroles, croissants, madeleines, and palmiers. There was tiramisu and biscotti on offering, but definitely more of a French connection.

The bar.
And that’s all fine and dandy–but Mercurio claims to be a “Caffè Italiano.” Just a tad misleading.

Anyway, just before meeting up, I had a late lunch so I decided on having a coffee as my digestivo (a great Italian custom worth familiarizing yourself with and enjoying, especially if you want an excuse for a little alcohol). After a meal, typically dinner with friends or colleagues, Italians order caffè corretto, which means “correct coffee”or “corrected.” It consists of a shot of espresso with a half-ounce or so of liquor–usually grappa or sambuca. Seeing as there was no sambuca, grappa it was for me! For illustrative purposes I asked the barista to prepare the grappa on the side, but in many cases, it is customary for the barista to pour the liquor in themselves. It looked like this:

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Espresso on the left, grappa on the right = caffe corretto
The grappa seemed a bit weak to me, and actually so did the coffee. I asked the barista what kind of beans they use and she explained to me that they use their own roast especially for espresso that they call “Misto.” Misto means a mixture, so I can only assume it comprised a mixture of beans or roasts.

Anyway, I’m so glad I got to enjoy some great company with my peer, the wonderful Julia from Here Today, Job Tomorrow, a blog that gives useful tips on the job hunt… definitely something I’ve been reading as I’m one of those hunters at the moment! BTW, she just got  a boring ol’ espresso… Haha, just teasing!

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Our lovely spread.
All in all, L’Espresso Bar Mercurio just didn’t seem to have that Italian shine to it, and it seemed more French than Italian. But, try it out yourself and let me know what you think!

As always, don’t hesitate to comment here or tweet me @giordanomixxi, and check out my updated coffee map for your convenience next time you’re around the city and feel like a coff!





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