There are secrets hidden in more places than just the ruins and catacombs that dot this ancient city—the baristas at one of Rome's best cafes are notoriously tight-lipped, too.
At Sant'Eustachio il Caffe, there's some kind of magic taking place behind the proverbial curtain—except the curtain isn't proverbial at all. No, the baristas here are actually shielded by barriers as they create espresso shots to order, and if you don't want yours automatically sweetened (which is ostensibly part of that magic) you'd better say so when you order it.
And the espresso truly is a mystery of caffeinated alchemy. A hint of sweetness and a toasted-almond bite are hidden in the warm liquid underneath the lightest head of foam. But this is no regular crema: The bubbles are too delicate, and the froth is more like the head on a Pisco sour than what's normally atop the usual wham-bam espresso.
Could there be egg whites involved? Is it emulsified confectioner's sugar? Only the baristas know, and the rest of us should just stop worrying and learn to love the coffee. I know I sure did.
(Now all we need is for Kenji to put the stuff through a Food Lab test. If anybody could re-create this supernatural shot...)
Sant'Eustachio il Caffe
About the author: Erin Meister trains baristas and inspires coffee-driven people for Counter Culture Coffee. She's a confident barista, an audacious eater, and a smiling runner, but she remains a Nervous Cook.