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Cappuccino after noon - faux pas in US?

I guess this is a question about dining etiquette changing with transplantation. Obviously, in Italy, it is a huge faux pas to have a cappuccino after a certain hour (I forget the exact time) in the morning.

In the US, it appears to be extremely common, at nice restaurants of all stripes, and in Italian ones (Caffe Vittoria in Boston comes to mind).

So my question is, is it still a faux pas at all, or is it just okay to break the rule?

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  1. If you are Amanda Hesser, it probably is not ok.

    Otherwise, it's fine.

    [Note: Above I am referring to Amanda Hesser's book "Cooking for Mr. Latte." Mr. Latte is the name she gave to her boyfriend (now husband) because he liked to have lattes in the afternoon.]

    1 Reply
    1. re: Darren72

      I believe it was even worse than this: He ordered a latte after dinner at a fine restaurant. In the U.S., lattes and cappucinos in the afternoon are the norm. C'mon, this is the eat-anything-anytime culture. That said, if you are hanging out with Italians the afternoon beverage is strictly espresso.

    2. It may be a faux pas in some circles, but most people even in Italy accept that Americans do strange things.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cheryl_h

        Like pair meatballs with pasta. :)

      2. It's acceptable even at the coffee houses of Boston's North End... Just don't do it in Italy and expect that you won't get snickered at behind your back. Ditto for asking for butter for your bread.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          interesting to note about the butter....30 years ago in Tangiers at an Italian resto a waiter looked cross-eyed at us when we requested butter as well...."what, are you nuts..../"

          1. re: toodie jane

            it that because you should use olive oil instead of butter? or because bread should be plain?

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                Which in my opinion is ridiculous, and surprised me when I was there. The bread in Italy is made without salt, and I just don't see the point of plain unsalted bread as a vehicle for nothing :-/

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath


                  you are supposed to use bread in an italian meal as an accompaniment for its texture, weight, and blandness: with salad or fish b/c of the acidity and lightness of these dishes, with soup b/c of the liquid aspect, etc. Adding salt would change the flavor of what you're eating.

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    In general you're right, fara, but the thing is that you've already changed the taste... bread is not tasteless.

            1. Funny somewhat relevant thing that happened to me the other day - I went out with a french acquaintance of mine who is visiting nyc for a month. We went to Le pain quotidien for lunch. I ordered an iced cappucino and she thought i was crazy. She could not believe that people actually enjoy iced coffee and cappucinos. She tried and iced cappuciino and hated it. she went on a rant how in france there is no such thing as iced coffee and cappucino. These drinks are only to be served hot.
              I was recenly in italy and I ordered cappucinos at all hours. I was never aware that this was an issue.

              6 Replies
              1. re: jordana

                Yes, well, the French fall firmly on the prescriptive side of the cuisine equation, the mother sauces and all that. When it's 90 F at 8:30 AM, the idea of hot coffee loses its appeal quickly.

                British people had a hard time with iced tea for a long time.

                1. re: jordana

                  In the U.S., it is okay to order cappucino or latte whenever you like, even though in italy it is frowned upon. however, as a person who's done the barista thing before, i do think that in general americans could do a better job of understanding what it is that they like and figuring out how to order that. the iced cappucino is a perfect example - what is that?
                  a cappucino is espresso with steamed frothed milk. so, do you enjoy the texture of milk which has been steamed and then poured over ice for some reason? or do you prefer espresso which is poured over ice with less milk than a latte? or what? i always hated it when people tried to order this drink, because it makes no sense. i think that generally speaking, in the US, the coffee / espresso is so much more sweetened and lightened and mixed with hazelnut syrup and what have you, it often bears little resemblance to what you would find in italy. and that's fine. americans are well versed in making the culinary inventions of other cultures their own.

                  1. re: pigtails

                    As a former barista myself, I always order my small latte no-foam (why on EARTH are coffee drinks so enormous here??) and a cup of ice. Cooled steamed milk tastes sweeter than milk straight out of a jug, which is why I don't just ask for espresso with milk.

                  2. re: jordana

                    When I was in Paris, the waiters looked very confused when I ordered iced coffee. They just did not get it. Finally, they brought a hot, steaming cup of coffee with a glass of ice next to it. Oh well, c'est la vie. When in France....

                    1. re: gloriousfood

                      I have to believe the vietnamese places in Paris serve iced coffee - so good!

                      1. re: gloriousfood

                        That's exactly how iced coffee is served in Spain. It's quite popular in the summer. It's served that way so that you can mix the sugar in before it is iced. Now if you order an iced cafe con leche people WILL look at you funny.

                    2. In America, there are no rules. Drink as you like. :)

                      1. Why is it anyone's business what you eat and when? And why do you care? Being PC when it comes to food is the antithesis of chowdom. Eat. Drink. Its good for you.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Ellen

                          Not being PC. I just find varying customs and their changes kinda fascinating.

                          1. re: BabyLitigator

                            Perhaps we should have a "why the hell do people want dim sum in the evening" thread soon then :).

                            1. re: Blueicus

                              Very true. But it's not like we Americans don't have cognate food taboos of our own that non-Americans might not want to be restricted by.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                I'm suddenly reminded of those very popular shops in Japan that pair spaghetti with coffee (and usually offer spicy fish roe on spaghetti w/ tomato sauce). Or the authentic American-style breakfasts served there that have pancakes with a nice green salad on the side.

                              2. re: Blueicus

                                I'm in San Francisco. If dim sum is only for breakfast, why is there a huge line of Chinese women buying dozens of pieces of dim sum at the takeout place in the mid afternoon? Is it intended for reheating the next morning? That doesn't sound very tasty.

                          2. I think this is a fair question to ask. It is not about being PC, it is about thinking about what you are eating and drinking and why.
                            Typically cappuccinos are drunk in the morning because they are cut with a little milk, thus are easier on the stomach. Good with a little brioche, etc.
                            Espresso is better on the stomach after a meal, and typically lunch or dinner are more substantial, plus it helps with digestion.
                            It has become so commonplace for Americans to come up with a bastardization of things that we forget from where they came. And I'm sure that annoys a lot of people who hold these traditions closer to their heart.
                            Maybe someone has a better idea where these "rules" stem from, that's just the way I've looked at it.

                            1. I learned that "rule" quickly when working for a French company in Paris. After lunch and dinner and in the office, it was espressos only, usually with quite a bit of sugar. However, they also introduced me to an interesting French product -- some people who liked a bit of milk in their coffee brought a tube of sweetened condensed milk to the office to squirt a bit in their afternoon espressos. Since it only comes in a can over here, I found the tubes irrestible and ended up using this as a small sweet treat any time of day. Also, at the time (in the 1980s), although every U.S. office had a coffee machine, it was very unusual in a French office. Sometimes a waiter with a tray of espressos in china cups would appear from the cafe downstairs, and we would all chip in a few francs for a freshly made espresso! Office snacking was also unusual, but when the office girls got really peckish, they would run downstairs for a hot waffle from a stand on the sidewalk. Those were the days.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Chowpatty

                                This reminds me of my favorite way to have coffee, morning noon or night... My Spanish father-in-law introduced me to cafe cortado, which in Spain anyway is the equivalent of espresso cut with a small amount of milk. Love it!

                                I've never ordered one but they also serve the reverse, a manchada, which is milk "stained" with a small amount of coffee.

                                A double espresso followed by a bit of milk from the coffe fixings bar is a close Starbucks-available approximation (I just wish I could get it in an actual ceramic cup...)

                                1. re: Pincho

                                  If its a stand alone store, you can ask for a "for here" cup. They have them in all sizes, as well as "for here" glasses for iced drinks. ...always have had them....and they don't charge extra....

                                  1. re: Pincho

                                    We had these in Barcelona every morning for breakfast (where they're called cafe tallat) and it was very good -- the closest I've ever had Starbucks come is a macchiato, but that's really more foam than actual milk.

                                    Any Cuban place should be able to make you a cortadito, though.

                                  2. re: Chowpatty

                                    If you miss the tubes of sweetened condensed milk, just duck into any Japanese grocery! All the ones here in New York carry them.

                                  3. I happen to love iced cappucinos. I like the combo of the frothy slightly warm milk with the cooler espresso and milk part. I 'm not a fan of syrups in my coffee. I first got into drinking iced cappucino when I was in Italy a few years ago in the summer. I never had the impression that it was an odd thing to drink or order until recently. I go to a lot of Italian places in nyc and no one has ever asked me twice about the ice cappucino.
                                    i never knew that espresso was good for digestion.

                                    1. Until the past generation, iced coffee was a sub-regional affair: pretty limited to southeastern New England (especially Rhode Island) that tended to disgust other Americans when they first encountered the concept (often through college students migrating round the land...).

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        It was definitely drunk in New Jersey 25-30 years ago... but then, if you think about New Jersey's weather in August, that makes a lot of sense!

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          I had iced espresso in Italy. It was pretty terrible. But it's very cute to hear Rhode Island is home to iced coffee. We had two competing chains that were pretty much the same, right before Starbucks became national. Bess Eaton, which had it's religious quotes on the cups, and Dunkin' Donuts, which doesn't seem to make good iced coffee outside of RI.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            Indeed, having been raised in Michigan, the first time in my life I ever ran into iced coffee was when I went to grad school in Boston. It's now availble in the midwest of course, and increasingly popular, but still a whole lot less popular than it is here on the east coast.

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              Add another vote that NJ also partook of iced coffee in the 1960's. that's when i sneaked a few sips from my fathers steel glass filled with coffee, ice, milk and sugar. you needed to be real careful not to get your bottom lip frozen to the glass. Yes it really did happen.

                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                Not so: my parents were big iced coffee drinkers way back in the fifties, and they were both native Californians.

                                              2. I wouldn't say faux pas but I woul say that most people don't realize that adding all that milk to coffee (espresso really) was meant to be as part of the breakfast meal.

                                                Having waitressed for years, I never understood why after a substantial meal people whould want to swig back a huge cup of milk.

                                                An espresso or noisette does me just fine!


                                                1. Oh, I've heard that too - that it's a faux pas to drink cappuccino in the evening and you know what I say? "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Well, I'm not in Rome, I'm in New York City and I occasionally like to have a cappuccino in the afternoon or evening - sometimes in place of dessert.

                                                  For me, I believe it started in restaurants when I ordered plain coffee after dinner and invariably it tasted stale and I knew right away it wasn't fresh. So I'd either order espresso or cappuccino which has to be made to order.

                                                  I was also told when I was in France that people don't drink Perrier along with dinner: that it's too fizzy. Yet I see Perrier consumed here all the time with dinner.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: Flynn1

                                                    Not so: in most restaurants in France that I've eaten in, the waiters ask if you want your water with or without "gas". The fizzy stuff might be Perrier or another brand.

                                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                                      I remember reading somewhere that Perrier bottled for the US market is deliberately more carbonated - that apparently we like fizzier fizzy water than do the French.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        We like EVERYTHING "more" than the French. Which is why we're so fat! If the water wasn't "fizzy" enough, Americans would think they were served flat water, or they didn't get their money's worth of "fizz".


                                                  2. If you like it what does it matter. The end of a dinner in a restaurant (usually after but sometimes with dessert) for my family tends to be coffee for me (not iced) expresso for my son, and cappuccino for my wife. I drink coffee all day, any time of day, my wife likes cappuccino more than coffee (she makes it at home for herself in the morning) and my son only drinks espresso when he is having coffee, otherwise he drinks tea.

                                                    1. Cultural sensitivity versus ugly american behavior "we'll have it our way and highjack your nomenclature regardless of history or tradition" is the essential argument. Cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy would be like hot cereal in the afternoon here in the U.S.. You wanna a hamburger and fries for breakfast? It's merely an association with a morning ritual. Cocktails in the afternoon, or a simple shot of espresso makes more sense to an Italian - and to me for that matter, a German American.

                                                      Iced cappuccino is a silly yet well loved American concept, along with the hybrid smoothie/milkshake/frappablecha. The whole super heating/super cooling/dilution/flavorization connundrum makes it seem like a lot of gesticulation for a simple caffeine fix. Pumpkin flavoring in your coffee? Why not "goat in rut"?

                                                      There's a great style of coffee served during hotter months by the Blue Bottle folks in SF. Cold extracted coffee mixed with milk, lightly sweetened, and served over ice. I believe they call it New Orleans style.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Karl Gerstenberger

                                                        I don't understand... iced cappuccino is silly, but coffee with milk, sugar and ice is normal? There are flavours that only come out when coffee is hot-extracted.

                                                        A simple caffeine fix is a cup of black coffee or a shot of espresso (or a cup of tea, or a cup of chocolate). It's merely a matter of degree. Sure, a tall iced double half-caf orange soy cappuccino is out there, but the only difference between the thing you've called silly and the thing you suggested instead is one starts out life hot and the other doesn't.

                                                        I agree about flavours in coffee... if I want that, I'll make a pie. I hate flavoured coffee, even things like hazelnut.

                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                          Hot coffee plus ice equals watered down flavor. The best ice coffees I've had aren't made with hot coffee, regardless of extraction method.

                                                      2. I was recently in London and it was impossible to find a "normal" American iced coffee. The two popular coffee chains there (sorry, can't remember their names) both put about 6 ounces of milk over ice and then poured in a shot of hot espresso. Yuck!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: JennS

                                                          Would that be Cafe Nero and Cafe Rouge?