For the first edition of #Foodiefriday, GBlog reached out to Edwin Garrubbo, author of the blog The Garrubbo Guide and the book Sunday Pasta: A Year Around the Table with Family and Friends. In addition to knowing his pasta, Garrubbo also has a word or two to share about espresso, another Italian staple. Check out our interview below for an introduction to his taste in beans, machines, crema, and coffee destinations around the world. For a deeper understanding, head over to The Garrubbo Guide and read up on The Art and Science of Beautiful Espresso.
GBlog: We hear you try the top espresso joints wherever you travel. Based on your experience, what are the best places for a good shot?
EG: I think Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market is my favorite [in New York]. They use Miscela D’oro coffee from Sicily. It’s rich and dark, southern style. Of course, the quality depends on “la mano,” or the hand, making it. Hope for a guy from Italy. In London, I always go to Bar Italia on Fifth Street. In Rome, I go to Sant’Eustachio; in Naples, Il Professore; in Milan, Nobile.
GBlog: How did you become a connoisseur of espresso?
EG: I don’t know about the word “connoisseur.” First, I don’t like using French words to describe Italian cuisine. Plus, everyone has strong opinions about espresso. It’s like religion—it’s so personal. Everyone is their own expert. Let’s just say that I’ve tasted a lot of espresso and have very strong opinions.
My grandmother made stovetop espresso when I was a kid. She would skim off the first espresso (crema) out of the pot and whip it together with sugar (much like they do at Sant’Eustachio in Rome). A dollop of that sugary espresso froth atop an espresso will hook anyone. From there, I just gravitated towards it—like a magnet pulling me in. When I see “caffe” on a sign, I try it. Most times, I don’t drink it. When it’s good, I have two. Over the years, I’ve tried thousands. Ironically, now I would never put sugar in my espresso.
GBlog: Do you make espresso at home? Would you recommend that espresso-lovers invest in a machine?
EG: Ah, I’ve had ten machines over the years, ranging from the early 80s weak home machines to the fancy home lever machines that cost a lot. The fact is, only a professional machine, well cared for, and used often, will make good espresso.
I’ve tossed all of them. I now use a moka. A beautiful six-cup Alessi stainless steel moka. I pick up a dark Italian roast, like Miko or Miscela D’oro or Danesi. I’m not partial to the northern Italian roasts, which are too light for me. But, usually, I buy a can of Medaglia D’oro at the supermarket. My grandmother’s inexpensive favorite is still mine. If I want a local roast, freshly ground, I like La Colombe’s Nizza roast.
GBlog: What do you value most about a cup of espresso?
EG: Again, espresso is so personal. For me, I like the southern Italian roasts, which tend to be darker and often a mix of Robusta and Arabica beans. My favorites create a dark and creamy espresso, with dark-colored, thick crema. As a rule, beige-colored crema is a turn off. I want a chocolate-colored crema. I like my espresso, extra short, or ristretto—about half of a normal full shot.
GBlog: Would you consider an espresso bar a destination for Valentine’s Day or a date any time of the year, and, if so, what would be the most romantic one you’ve visited?
EG: Hmm. Romantic espresso bars? I suppose I would go to Tarallucci e Vino on 18th Street. First, they have great cappuccino and cornetti for breakfast. And then they have a great wine list, too. Start early with espresso or end the night with one. And then there’s Malaparte in the West Village. Again, it’s a casual trattoria, but they have a vintage espresso machine from the 50s, with levers. The machine itself makes me happy. The good espresso is a bonus. And the atmosphere is warm, even in the winter.