(*Said slowly with a sultry Italian roll of the ‘r’ and an elongation of the ‘ll’s’.)
Um, are we still talking about coffee?
Yes. Oh, yes we are.
And I thought what better way to start talking about coffee than with one of my favorite cafes in Florence, Italy.
You have to understand, Italy is where I learned to truly appreciate the cappuccino. Not only that, but my sister lives in Florence and I’ve been lucky enough to visit her on several occasions. What’s nice, when you know someone who lives in the area, is that they take all the guess work out of where to go. My sister gets to share her new finds with me and I, in turn, am able to awash myself in the glow of decadence that is difficult to come by in the States.
It was on these visits that my sister introduced me to Marcello…la Pasticceria. I haven’t been the same since.
What makes Marcello So Good?
The norm, when ordering coffee in Italy, is to drink it quickly while standing at the bar. But Marcello Pasticceria is not your normal Italian café mainly because it has ample seating for patrons. So you can actually sit and relax. It is also not in the middle of the busy city center of Florence, but a ten-minute bus ride to a Florentine neighborhood called Gavinana-Galluzzo.
The exterior of Marcello is very boring. An intrusive green sign reads “Marcello…la Pasticceria”. I’m not going to lie, it doesn’t look inviting. There is a cafeteria feel when looking at the café from the street. In fact, on my first visit I pointed out a hip, trendy looking café across the street from Marcelllo that looked more inviting. My sister looked at the trendy spot and shook her head, “Trust me.” she said pointing us forward toward the green-sign blandness.
There is an outdoor sitting area, hemmed in by hip height walls. The morning was cool and only a few people smoking and reading papers were seated outside. To the right of the door was a vendor selling various sundries – these men have become a fixture outside cafes in the morning; selling last minute goods, umbrellas, Kleenex, and sunglasses. We shake our heads, “no thanks,” in reply to the merchandise offered.
I’m still not convinced this place is worth our time, but the door swings open and it’s the first glimpse Charlie had when he walked into the heart of the Chocolate Factory. Case upon case were filled with dreamy Chantilly creamed stuffed pastries. Decadent cakes that look so picture perfect they might not really be edible. Tantalizing paninis with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes with a sheen to their glossy red and wonderful large leaves of dark green basil.
There is other assorted deliciousness that overload the senses. I look wide eyed at my sister who nods, she understands; this is why she brought me here.
A helpful young woman in a baker’s outfit, complete with little white hat, stands behind the cases, ready to help, but there is no one that can help with this decision. I’m tempted to cry “one of everything!” But first I have to get my eyes to focus properly and stop the drooling that might affect my speech.
Okay, what makes this place great? Let’s go ahead and give about 5% to the fact that it’s located in Florence, Italy. I’ll admit that is a little bit of its charm. But mostly, it’s the pastries. The pastries are amazing. They don’t use whipped cream, but Italian Chantilly cream. It is unlike anything I’ve had to date. It’s lighter than whipped cream and somehow sweeter, but not sickeningly so. It has no frosting like traits. I suppose if vanilla pudding, whipped cream and a dash of butter cream frosting were to have a child it would be akin to Chantilly Cream. That’s the closest description I can thing to give.
On the other side of the café are more cases. These are lined with cakes and tarts.
The fruit tarts are pure artwork. Of course we bought one but when it came time to cut it, I lingered over it with the knife, reluctant to cut into it. But the taste of fresh ripe fruit bursting in your mouth with that Chantilly Cream and the perfect crust…oh Marcello.
There are two traditional deserts from Tuscany just for grandparents. One is called Torta Della Nonna: Grandma’s Cake. It’s a pastry base with a creamy filling, and another layer of pastry before crunchy pine nuts are added. Now, the chocolate version of this cake is called Torta del nonno: Grandpa’s Cake. Marcello serves both of these delightful Tuscan specialties.
Now, I would love to wax poetically about the cappuccinos as eloquently as I have the pastries, but the fact is that the cappuccinos are not amazing. (I hate writing that.) They are good, but they aren’t the best I’ve ever had. Their cappuccinos get the job done. They are the supporting actor, allowing the pastries to shine on stage.
When I am in Florence you can bet your roasted beans the first morning I’m there, I’ll hop a bus headed to Marcello. The excitement growing as the Viale Europa curves and I can just make out the green signage. My mouth will begin a Pavlovian mouth water, because I know what’s coming.