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Aug 29, 2007 08:34 AM

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.