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Cappuccino in the PM?

When I visited Italy, cappuccinos were only imbibed before noon, as a breakfast drink. I see countless Americans drinking them after dinner. Faux pas? Tacky? Help. :)

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  1. Milk with coffee for breakfast. No milk with dinner coffee. That was how I grew up. That is how it is in Europe.

    In America, anything goes...

    2 Replies
    1. re: Cathy

      I will occasionally order a cappuccino after dinner because they are delicious and I don't have a frother at home.

      1. re: katiepie

        Yes, and if nothing appeals on a dessert menu but I want a little something, a cappucino can be nice.

    2. I've come to prefer espresso after a meal, though that may in part be due to my fear of being perceived, even in Italian restaurants in NY, as being gauche ;-). Certainly though, if I have dessert, cappuccino would be too heavy. I also find that espresso takes away my desire for dessert.

      I think "technically" it is a faux pas, as I understand that in Italy (as well as France), coffee with milk is strictly a breakfast drink. But, I've gotten to the stage in my life that I think that people should order what they want to, regardless of convention.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        I agree with MMRuth. Technically speaking, cappuccino (or cafe au lait, for that matter), is intended to serve as a breakfast drink and a meal on its own, possibly accompanied by a biscuit or two. Typically, the AM is the only time that adults consume milk in the countries of origin. Straight espresso is served after a savory meal in order to aid in digestion- whereas a large cup of milk might hinder it- the intense coffee aroma and flavor of espresso also send a signal to the stomach that the meal is completed, and tends to extinguish the appetite. With that understanding, ordering a cappuccino in an Italian restaurant after dinner is a definite faux pas, (or a "brutta figura", as it were).
        On the other hand, here in the US, where rules are much looser (and desserts tend to be heavier), if you really want a cappuccino after your meal, you should order one. Half of the other patrons are probably having one, too.

        1. re: vvvindaloo

          I completely agree with you both. Having spent a lot of time in Italy, I would never order a cappuccino there after the a.m. In the States however, sometimes a cappuccino is just what I want in lieu of dessert if craving something a little sweet after dinner. When I was younger I wouldn't have ordered one in the evening, but I see others doing it and frankly, I'm also at a stage in life where I don't always care about others judging me. If a restaurant or my tablemates want to banish me for ordering a cappucino in the evening, so be it ;-)

      2. I'm all for good manners, but in this case, I think you should drink what you want to drink.

        1. Many years ago, on my first trip to Paris I was having dinner (outdoors) at a bistro on the Left Bank. I ordered a cappuccino after my dinner and the waiter just came untrained and went on a rant - mostly in French with some English thrown in but it was clear he felt the order was unacceptable other than for breakfast. There was a nice, older French couple sitting next to us and the genteleman dressed the waiter down (in French) and told him (in English) to bring me my cappucino and to behave in a more gracious manner. I was very young at the time and for the rest of the trip only ordered espresso after dinner to avoid another similar scene. Today I wouldn't care and would order whatever I happened to be in the mood for - particularly in the US.

          1 Reply
          1. re: queenie

            I hear people say all the time that this is some sort of faux pas and I don't get it. You might as well say that "technically," eggs and toast are strictly breakfast foods. That is the convention, but if they're on the menu at dinner, I can't imagine what is wrong with ordering them. If they're not on the menu and you ask for them anyway, they should either accommodate you (easy enough with either eggs or cappucino) or calmly say that they're not available at this hour, but why anyone would rant or feel guilty is beyond me.

            The info that one may be looked at funny if ordering cappucino/cafe au lait at night in Italy or France is useful, but there is no earthly reason not to order it if you want to in the U.S.

          2. There was a whole book about this: Cooking for Mr. Latte

            Mr. Latte's faux pas was to order a latte as a kind of liquid dessert after dinner. It established his credentials as a gastronomic hick who needed to be educated by his wife-to-be, Amanda Hesser, who wrote the book.

            I drink what I want when I want, however -- at least here in the U.S. Abroad, I'll defer to local custom.

            1. While it may be faux pas (and yes I am an American), I have drank many a cappuccino after dinner. There's something relaxing about it, and while it may be harder on the digestion process, it can take the place of a dessert.

              On the other hand, I find that drinking coffee at night in general isn't always the best thing...can't fall asleep as easily :) You'd think coffee/caffeine was just a morning pick-me-up but I always wondered how so many people can drink it all throughout the day and still sleep.

              1. If you can find a place in the US that actually knows how to make a decent cappuccino, celebrate that fact and drink as many as you can stand regardless of the hour!

                But in Italy, yeah, it's custom to not have them after 11am. And we'll add that while numerous restos in Italy will serve capps after dinner without batting an eye, don't count on them actually being any good. They save the good ones for breakfast ;-)

                1. It's an archaic and silly "rule." No logic behind it at all- and please don't anyone post about how you only need the energy from the milk in the AM to go work in the fields. Nobody is working in the damn fields, and the amount of "energy" you get from the 3 or so ounces of milk in a proper 5-oz cappo is trivial anyway.

                  I agree with Paniniguy- if you can find a good cappo, drink it! To heck with arbitrary rules like this nonsense.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: John Manzo

                    Actually, John, I disagree- it is not silly at all, and there's a very good reasoning behind coffee being an okay drink after a meal, and cappuccino not being the same.
                    Drinking a hot beverage (either coffee or tea) attracts blood to the stomach, hence helping the digestion process. Similarly to having a digestive- like grappa or an amaro. Milk, however, is generally known to be laborious to digest- so instead of helping your digestion, it makes it harder.
                    sometimes we like to isolate the foods from the context they've been traditionally eaten. We discard centuries and centuries of traditions "just because"- and that is not, in my opinion, a good way to go about it. Give credit where credit is due and believe Italians when they frown upon you when you order a cappuccino after your meal. It is quite possible that drinking milk after a different style of cuisine doesn't have the same effect, but when enjoying carb-rich Italian food, give your stomach a break and order either coffee or tea.
                    As an Italian born and raised in Italy, everyone always ask me why the rule of "no cappuccino after 11am". There is no such rule: you can enjoy a cappuccino in the afternoon, and you will see many Italians doing it, too. However, you will never see us ordering milk after a meal. We trust our ancestors on that.

                    1. re: VanessaItalyinSF

                      Vanessa, I understand the tradition but don't think it passes the logic test, at least for the reasons you describe.

                      >>>Milk, however, is generally known to be laborious to digest-- so instead of helping your digestion, it makes it harder.

                      Then what about Italian desserts after dinner like tiramisu, loaded with cream, and gelato, made with milk?

                      Or even dinner dishes that are made with milk, like polenta or sugo or pasta with cream sauce?

                      Do you think the stomach is smart enough to differentiate between milk consumed after a meal and milk consumed during a meal?

                      Though your ancestors are wrong about the reasons why one does not not drink milk after a meal, you can still continue to uphold the tradition just because it IS a tradition and an aesthetic, not because it makes biological or digestive sense.

                      I've heard another reason about the no-milk rule in caffe after breakfast -- it's that milk is considered a meal of sorts, and caloric, and it is difficult to understand why someone would have a drink laden with yet more calories after a meal. But this explanation may be apocryphal also.

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        maria --

                        your "caloric" argument breaks down in exactly the same way the milk argument does. if i choose to order a capuccino in lieu of dessert, it's surely less calories than tiramisu, cannolis, etc.

                        if I want capuccino after dinner, provided i drink it politely and don't slurp or become otherwise disruptive... why would ANYone care? it's not like i'm pouring sugar into a fine barolo, or asking for ketchup for my prime-rib.

                        1. re: egit

                          I didn't say "in lieu of."

                          You're preaching to the choir. I think it's silly rule about capps after noon. Read my post again. I don't care what you do with your capp, but a lot of Italians do.

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            Putting aside the issue of whether or not one should simply do what one wishes (with which I agree), how does a macchiato (sp?) fit in to the discussion. I.e., is it the same as a capp in terms of traditionally not drunk after dinner? Thanks!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              It's the use of milk, period, it seems, that is frowned upon. Even a small amount, as in a macchiato.

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                Thanks - I thought so - but thought I'd ask!

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  In France it's fine to order a "noisette" after a meal. And if you offered a big, beautiful cappuccino for the price of an espresso, people would surely have no problems ordering it.

                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                    "Noisette" - what a lovely name - I'd never heard that before. Not sure what you mean by the second part, though!

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      "Noisette," which means hazelnut in French, is also used to describe coffee. It means that just enough milk or cream is added to espresso to make it hazelnut-colored. It doesn't mean the coffee is hazelnut-flavored.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Thanks - I didn't understand it to be that. It is such a pretty word, and the perfect description of the color, that it was pleasing to me, hence my post. I love hazelnut but have a severe aversion to flavoured coffees.

                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          Oh, I knew you knew, from reading your other posts. I just wanted to be perfectly clear and avoid any confusion. And, I share your aversion to flavored coffees. Best, M.

                                      2. re: MMRuth

                                        I just meant that I don't think the French are as uptight about this (with the exception of certain Parisian waiters, who are uptight about everything). I would say that part of the reason people order an ordinary coffee after dinner is because it's the simplest and cheapest thing, and not because their ancestors taught them that milk is hard to digest…

                                        1. re: DeppityDawg

                                          Ha! You will note that I have not engaged in the ancestor milk digestion issues ;-)

                        2. re: VanessaItalyinSF

                          I wasn't even talking about "after a meal."

                      2. Not a faux pas or tacky to drink a cappuccino whenever and wherever you want. It's your choice.

                        But if you do it in Italy after midday, don't expect the locals to show you Respect :-)

                        1 Reply
                        1. Tacky??? Seriously, who decides these things??? It's not like you're talking on your cell phone during diner! I'm all against rude and inconsiderate, but if you want milk in your coffee whenever you feel like it, I'm not going to shame you for it! Though there seem to be many who will...the snide little buggers.

                          1. I tend to order esspresso. There are only a couple of places that make coffee the way I like it. Esspresso tastes bolder, comes in smaller ammounts so it is easier on a full stomach, and has less caffine than brewed coffee. That's just what I like, not necessarily what is "proper".

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Paul Weller

                              I like espresso after a meal too, but here's a fact regarding the caffeine,
                              "Ounce for ounce, espresso is about twice as strong as coffee (35 vs 18 milligrams caffeine per ounce of Starbuck's). But because the espresso serving is so small, you end up with less caffeine: 35 mg from one shot (one ounce) of espresso vs 140 mg from an 8-ounce Starbuck's coffee."

                              1. re: Gio

                                I believe I read somewhere that heat increases caffiene's water solubility. Since espresso is essentially steam brewed, the temp is higher and therefore the caffiene content is proportionally higher, since the 212 degree steam is able to absorb more caffiene from the very finely ground coffee. Also the fine grind increases the coffee's surface area, which allows for more absorption as well.

                                1. re: Gio

                                  That's why I don't drink 8 ounces of esspresso.

                              2. I own a coffee house. I drink lattes morning, noon and night and dont give a crap what anyone thinks. When they work 100+ hours a week, then they can form an opinion.

                                1. I don't think anyone is arguing with the point that in the U.S. you can do what the heck you want and enjoy a cappucino or latte any time of day.

                                  It's just that in Italy, the custom is much, much different. And if you do order a cappucino after lunch or dinner there, the waitstaff looks at you as if you're a lunatic, and, I'm guessing, does a lousy job in making the capp because you're perceived as not understanding cappucino anyway. Sure, no capps after breakfast doesn't pass the logic test for Americans, but it is an operational truism in Italy (for whatever nonsensical reason) nonetheless.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    Thanks, Maria. This was what I was initially wondering. Thanks for clarifying!

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      Just one more thing about about Italy and milk...
                                      The Italians don't drink much milk, period. The children there drink far less milk than American children, and the adults never drink milk. At least in the sense of "have a cold glass of milk" with your cookies or brownies as is done in the U.S. Milk in Italy is drunk under very specific circumstances...that's just the way it is. That may further explain the no milk in caffe after breakfast...which means, of course, no cappucinos after breakfast.