This is Maria (left), her daughter and (we think) her sister, in the coffee and sweet shop they run in Mantova, Northern Italy. It is not much to look at from the outside (see below) but it hums with life when inside, with working Mantovians popping in for their early morning caffeine shots We love the way Italians don't dwell on their coffee stops, they just order, stand at the bar and drink, then bolt. None of this getting a table malarkey.
MAD is a passionate acquirerer of coffee machines (he has six, two working in active service, the rest in the garage) and is always on the look out for a good vintage one in the hope I'll give it space in the kitchen. He was much taken with Maria's Faema E61, and she gave him a good log explanation of how to make great coffee (she uses Brazilian beans and stores them in great vats in the shop). Unfortunately our Italian isn't that great so we missed the finer points, but she was so welcoming, so entertaining and made such good coffee that we loved it anyway. As we left she stuffed handfuls of beautifully wrapped Italian sweets into our bags, which is something you don't get at Starbucks.
It's blistering here in Italy and we drank a fantastically refreshing coffee at Maria's that we'd never had before. It's called a shakitini (or something….) and you make it like this:
Get a cocktail shaker (you know that metal thing you've had hanging around the back of the kitchen cupboard for years) and place in 5 ice cubes.
Add a shot of espresso and a small teaspoon of sugar.
Shake vigorously for a minute, until the ice begins to crush up a bit.
Strain out the chilled espresso into a cold glass, and add some of the broken up ice and froth from the inside of the cocktail mixer. Drink. Yum.