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Cappuccino after dinner? A-ok or a no-no for "authentic" Italian dining?

I was always taught that cappuccino is a breakfast drink,but I keep finding that Italian restaurants, even high end white tablecloth establishments, serve cappuccino after dinner. Do folks in Rome cap off a meal of bolognese and broccoli rabe with cappuccino? Or is this an instance of Americanization of foreign foods?

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  1. Probably just giving the customers what they want...if I wanted a cappuccino after my dinner, I would be pretty annoyed if they said no.

    5 Replies
    1. re: pj26

      I'm sure that's true to some extent, but last night I was offered a cap by the waiter. Just wondering what is "real" - as far as whether that's typical in Italy or whether it's considered a breakfast drink.

        1. re: pj26

          Yes, but not since i was too young to notice or give a hoot. :)

          1. re: RUNNERFEMME

            I meant were you in Italy when the waiter offered you a cappuccino?

    2. I think they think it's a little weird but I have often asked and never been refused in Italy.

      1. I just returned from Italy and it's generally not done. I actually heard a waiter tell someone in our group after dinner that "no",cappuccino was not available".

        1. I travel to Italy often. Cappucino is not the traditional after dinner drink. Most people order espresso or American style coffee.
          I have never seen anyone told that they could not have a cappucino after dinner. That would seem odd.
          I have seen Italian waiters cringe when a diner requests grated cheese on seafood sauce even to the point of asking, "are you sure?"

          1. No cappuccino after 10am is the 'general' custom.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Novelli

              +1 on this. In general it is viewed as too heavy to be drunken after dinner.

            2. I heard that espresso was often served after Italian food because strong coffee is great for removing the smell of garlic (which I can attest to; after chopping garlic, I wash the knife and chopping board with soap and coffee grounds from that morning.)
              I don't know if they draw the line at cappucinos, though. Maybe that place shut off and cleaned their espresso machine at a certain time?

              1 Reply
              1. re: Michelly

                Cappucino is a breakfast/morning beverage as Novelli said.

              2. This has come up before:
                March 2003: cappuccino after dinner ?!?!
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/23310

                July 2006: Cappuccino after noon - faux pas in US?
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/310978

                August 2007: Cappuccino in the PM?
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/436130

                1. I think there also needs to be a separation between what you would get in (certain restaurants) in Italy and those outside Italy. And just because they call themselves 'authentic', doesn't necessarily mean they are!

                  1. Total gaffe if you're in Italy. Cappucino is not customarily served after breakfast/brunch. I imagine you could get one, but it'll mark you hard as a tourist. (Not that that matters.)

                    1. Definite no-no to ask but an even bigger one to refuse to serve it, I would have thought. Anyway, if you still have room for a big milky drink after your dinner then maybe something has gone wrong with the meal...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: gembellina

                        gembellina - so funny. i had the same exact thought. when have i ever had a wonderful meal after which i thought, "gee, wiz, i'd like nothing more than a belly full of milk right about now." ???

                        1. re: RUNNERFEMME

                          a lot of people seem to like this. i agree with you though.

                      2. Given the relative newness of capuccino in Italian and world culture I think that "authenticity" is a pretty relative measure. If your restaurant is located in a country where the culture views milk drinks to be breakfast beverages, then the answer is different from a restaurant in a country where milk beverages are consumed all day long (and into the night).

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ferret

                          Great reply - think that actually answers the original poster's question.

                        2. I used to stop for an "afternoon" cappuccino around 4:30 pm every Tuesday and Thursday in a small town suburb of Torino. Same cafe, same guy working every week, and he never stopped giving me the evil eye. It went on for months. What I really wanted was a cafe latte, but I was afraid he'd boot me out. Considering his bar was pretty much empty otherwise, and considering I was really polite and appreciative (and armed with the correct change), I chalked up his grumpiness to inappropriateness of my ordering a cappuccino at such a late hour. I can't imagine what he would have done if I'd ordered one after dinner.

                          I lived in Torino for two years, and while I saw the occasional after-dinner espresso (really, best when poured over gelato!), grappa was far more common after a dinner out. Everyone, all the time, would try to convince me that an after-dinner grappa was the solution to all my digestive (and otherwise medical) woes!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Jetgirly

                            Definitely frowned upon when we traveled to Italy in 2007, especially in Sicily. Rather than being refused, the person in our party who was trying to get cappuccinos in the afternoon would be willfully misunderstood eg. "Uno cappuccino, per favore" "Coca Cola?" or similar :-).

                            I didn't have a problem with the no caps after lunch rule but I never could get my head around grappa and espresso knocked back at 9 in the morning. Something tells me that caffe corretto is not a drink I'm ever going to find in a coffee shop in my neck of the woods, authenticity be damned!

                          2. The most milk an Italian would consider acceptable in coffee after a meal is the drop in "caffè macchiato." Cappuccino or caffelatte or anything with a lot of milk is considered deleterious to digestion. Apparently the principle does not carry over to actual desserts, such as gelato and tiramisù, but as in many things custom in this probably outweighs science. Restaurants are now listing it on menus because so many foreign customers ask for it (just as they are starting to serve saucers of olive oil), but I've never seen an Italian drink more than a macchiato right after a meal. A professional, old-school Italian waiter (and I am talking about Italy only) would regard a request for a cappuccino as a teachable moment and not give it to you. It's not so much that there's a 10 am cutoff for cappuccino as that it isn't served after meals. If you want one in the middle of the afternoon, go ahead.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: mbfant

                              Yes, when I was in Italy, in touristy and non-touristy areas, I often had a cappuccino in the afternoon, maybe around 3 PM, and not one waiter ever gave me the evil eye.

                              1. re: mbfant

                                also, it seems that heavy desserts are not commonly eaten after dinner.

                                1. re: fara

                                  no tirami sú, no panna cotta, no semi freddo, no tartufo?

                                  that's certainly not my experience.

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    tiramisù. Actually it's relatively new. Traditionally fruit is dessert. Sweets, especially gelato, are eaten between meals (the dark side of the Mediterranean diet) or for special occasions. Of course there's the cheese course, if we want to look at tradition.

                                    1. re: mbfant

                                      oh, the reverse accent. you go, mb!

                                      so panna cotta, semi freddo, etc. are all eaten inbetween meals? i better tell my local italian place. also, tell them to offer a cheese plate (not something i've seen at many italian restaurants).

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        If you haven't seen cheese boards or trolleys, you haven't been frequenting the right restaurants. And the restaurants with the best cheese selections tend not to have panna cotta on the menu (except possibly in some fabulous variation). If I make myself clear. Yes, panna cotta and semifreddo (one word, and morally gelato -- the difference is mainly that gelato, properly called "mantecato," is scooped and semifreddi are sliced or have a shape of some sort) are indeed served for dessert, and the best chefs are "interpreting" tiramisù all over the place, but traditionally -- which is not necessarily the way things are done in restaurants, much less the high-end restaurants that have fabulous cheeses -- dessert was more likely to be fruit and sweets more likely to accompany coffee or sweet wine in off hours. Yes, crème caramel used to be a standard in (at least Roman) trattorias and a few other so-called "spoon" desserts, like zuppa inglese, but by and large, gooey desserts are not important in the tradition here. And to get back to the topic of the thread: if your tradition says the proper thing to follow a meal is an orange, the same tradition will find cappuccino after the orange inappropriate. BTW nobody has mentioned another prohibition/custom: coffee is not served WITH dessert but AFTER dessert.

                              2. "Authentic" , in my experience, would be an espresso with a shot of anisette in it.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                  Authentic Italiano-Americano, I think. I grew up with that here in the US, but I don't remember ever having it in Italy.

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    Not just "authentic", but "correct" :)

                                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                                      ...and also a great way to end a great meal.

                                    2. re: mucho gordo

                                      loved that my great-aunt and uncle (very old school) started giving that to me in my teens- but the espresso and shot are separate.