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Being of Italian descent, I’ve been drinking coffee for as long as I can remember. An espresso was the standard after every Sunday meal or special occasion; ironically, it was often referred to as demitasse, which translates from French to “a half cup.” As a child, I couldn’t wait for my parents to take the espresso-making contraption out of the cabinet. I say contraption because there were no in-house espresso machines in those days. Pre-Starbucks, machines were large-scale, very ornate works of art that could only be found at the fancy Italian-American restaurants we went to. While I was in awe of their beauty and the steamy cappuccinos and lattes that came out of them, they just didn’t compare to my mother’s coffee service.
At our house, we had several different types of contraptions, but my favorite was the classic stovetop maker that my parents still use today. This espresso maker can brew about six cups at a time and is simple to use, yet it fascinates me. The magic of water starting out at the bottom of the pot and ending up as espresso far outshined any science lesson I could have had in school. This was science you could drink!
As an adult, I drink coffee in a variety of ways, but I always drink it in the form of an espresso. The concentration of flavor and less caffeine do right by me, and I’ve joked with my staff for years that I’m hyper enough—they don’t want to see me when I drink American coffee.
While my daily routine varies, I adhere to a strict coffee schedule, drinking a different style of espresso throughout the day. We are fortunate to have so many great places in Raleigh to help me stay true to my coffee routine and here, I’ll share just a few. But be advised, I don’t drink all of this coffee in a single day. You probably shouldn’t either!
Morning: I drink an espresso shot from my trusty homestyle DeLonghi espresso maker. But if I’m out, I almost always make my way to BREW at Seaboard Station or Lucettegrace in downtown Raleigh. (Pro-tip for Lucette: Get the Dixie Cannonball muffin, it’s life changing).
Mid-Morning: If I have a breakfast or mid-morning meeting, a cortado is a must for me. With its two locations, Jubala often helps meet my cortado needs.
While I would never drink coffee with my meal (the flavors are too strong), drinking an espresso is a great way to end a meal and to avoid that post-meal food coma. I prefer a lunch meeting at 18 Seaboard, with an espresso at the end.
Mid-Afternoon: One of my favorite times to get a coffee is around 2 p.m. I find it’s the perfect moment for a mid-afternoon treat and an espresso con panna (espresso with a dab of whipped cream on top) satisfies this craving. I have no idea why this isn’t more popular. While not on the menu, you can ask for an espresso con panna at Bittersweet; you’re sure to be a fan. Of course, in the summer, I vary my standard mid-afternoon pick-me-up with an iced coffee, and my preference is a nitro cold brew—what could be better than coffee on tap? Try the ones from 42 & Lawrence and Brew. But be forewarned, they’re addicting!
Pre-Dinner/Dinner: I avoid coffee for a lot of reasons between 3 and 8 p.m., mostly to do with sleep, but also, as mentioned, I don’t like pairing with food.
After-Dinner: I know, it’s dicey for shut-eye, but an after-dinner espresso often sounds wonderful. While I sometimes go for decaf, my preference is to make an espresso correcto, which simply means adding some alcohol to the brew. I usually add Sambuca, an anise-flavored Italian liqueur, or Grappa, a strong Italian spirit made from wine remnants (pomace). You can find these at Italian restaurants including the always-consistent Vivace at North Hills. The other option is an espresso with Amaro, an Italian herbal liqueur, by its side. Try the latter at Hummingbird for an excellent cup of espresso and a nice Amaro selection.
In Raleigh, we’re blessed with even more coffee options from the homegrown entrepreneurs at Slingshot Coffee Co. Beyond Slingshot’s widely available cold brew line, the company recently launched Slingshot Coffee Sodas. Now, I occasionally take a modern approach to my lunch routine which transports me back to my childhood, when my mother enjoyed her Manhattan Specials (bottled coffee sodas) with a scoop of ice cream for dessert. You can find Slingshot Coffee Sodas at Yellow Dog Bread Co.
The big exception to my coffee routine is the wonderful sipping Chocolate at Videri Chocolate Factory. There are times when I just can’t get enough of that luscious goodness. It’s a great, low-caffeine and tasty alternative to my mid-morning cortado or mid-afternoon con panna. I recommend a stop there at any time of day for this soul-revitalizing treat. Of course, Videri has great coffee as well!
Coffee has pervaded American culture, and we each have our own styles of imbibing, our own rituals. I’ve never been a flavor fan, but my wife embraces flavored coffee. No matter your own personal style, take a moment each day to indulge; go out and enjoy your favorite cup, made exactly how you like it.
For an easy map to my favorite Raleigh coffee spots, check out my list on the CurEat App, or go ahead and make a coffee lover’s list of your own.
Steve Mangano is a Raleigh-based entrepreneur and the founder of CurEat, a national restaurant-finding app available for iOS or Android.
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