June 19, 2024 - Written by: Nancy Pollard
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Breakfast at Sebastiano in BolognaI was never a big fan of evening bar-hopping in my moderately misspent youth.  From my very brief experience, it featured  low-ball cocktails, rancid peanuts and stale potato chips. That said, I have been rather shockingly quick to adapt to the Italian version of our Happy Hour, but clearly need to do some more testing and research. I have, however, rather surprisingly begun falling in love with breakfast bar-hopping in Italy.  Apparently in Italy,  one really does not do breakfast at home if at all possible – at least not every day. The snap, crackle, pop of cold cereal and milk just never caught on here and wore out its welcome with me before I hit adolescence.  But breakfast out, with freshly squeezed  orange juice – spremuta  (my favorite breakfast out discovery, which has spoiled me forever from drinking frozen orange juice)  plus a nice pastry and, to my mind, the best coffee is something I could get used to. Not only do you avoid having to start your day with yet another load of dishes to clean, but you are out of your home, you have to be dressed and ready to start the day. 

Breakfast Club Rules

There are still some things for me to learn. I  am not comfortable with  standing at a counter and having a  breakfast snack of espresso and cornetto, the inexpensive preference of many Italians.  Although it costs a bit more than standing, I like to be seated and enjoy a moment of Zen, as Jon Stewart would say. Almost every bar has at least a couple of tables outside (even in winter under Bologna’s famed porticoes, outside is quite tolerable – IF you pass the Italian inclement weather dress code, which includes scarf and hat).

How you order and pay is still a bit loosey-goosey to me and some KD readers have let me know they have  been puzzled as well.  But you can go in and ask if one orders at the table or at the bar. They will let you know whether  you order and  carry it out to a table or  a server will come to your table and take your order.  Generally you pay for your selections (hang onto the receipt) and then get your coffee and pastry (and in my case an additional spremuta). Often in smaller bars the personnel will give you a tray with what you order and you carry it out to one of their tables. You can leave the tray on the table when you are finished, but if I can, I return it, because I was once an overworked restaurant employee. There is  no tipping.

 I think breakfast here is not really considered a meal…lunch or dinner is, but not breakfast. Italians eat dinner late.  As  an example, my daughter’s sister-in-law is an oral surgeon and her husband a radiologist. They start work early in the morning, have a long lunch break, which often includes a rest, and then work from the afternoon until 8pm. So dinner is late, often ending after 10pm. So for many in Italy,  breakfast is really a snack, not the Anglo-Saxon stick-to-your ribs repast meant to give you enough energy to work hard at  your job in weather that is noted for its persistent inclination to rain. Or stamina to hunt to the hounds – which is how some culinary historians explain the tradition of the full English Breakfast.

Of course everyone on the planet now knows how Italians feel about foreigners swilling cappuccino after the magic hour of 11am (a big no-no). And although I am from the country that made “I can do whatever I want” its unwritten national motto, I take their point – cappuccino is nice to start the day, Domenica Marchetti recipe for Ciambelloneand it’s filling, but I had one in the afternoon one time and I felt a bit burpy and even a tad lethargic. But in the morning, it’s a good way to have milk without the clutter of cereal.

Italians are dunkers. They will take anything baked and immerse it in their coffee or hot chocolate or hot milk. I have watched my Italian grandson train his English cousin to do the same, even with their grandmother’s sacred chocolate chip cookies!  I personally don’t find the charm in dunking my pastry in my cappuccino, but I did find that it is an enormous help to the ubiquitous Italian breakfast cake – ciambellone

My Breakfast Bar List

Should you visit Bologna, here are my current favorites for this morning exercise – all very different in atmosphere, but the coffee is first rate, spremutte are offered and their pastries are good and unique to each bakery. The people who staff all three are very helpful to tourists as well as serving their regular clientele.

Il Forno Di Un Chicco  has three branches. The one that I go to on Via de Falegnami is a sliver of a bar with tables spilling out onto the one-block-long street – very picturesque, bicycles, scooters race by – or they have a patio in the back in a crevice between the other buildings. The personnel  at Chicco are friendly and helpful. They hand press  their spremuta which Il Forno di Un Chicco from their websitesometimes has pomegranate added in the winter. The focus of Chicco is alternative flours and  vegan options. Their strength lies in their breads, but they experiment with American-style cakes and cookies. You order at the counter and  pay with a credit card or  cash (since the pandemic, every business has contactless payment) but if you say you want to pay in cash they, like a growing number of businesses, have a marvelous machine for contanti or cash. Once your total is rung up, you slip your euro bank notes in one place and coins in another, and your change spits out at the bottom slot.  It’s a great way to get rid of that growing bulge of centesimi in your wallet – coinage is always difficult to figure out when you visit another country. 

La Borbonica and its owners from their websiteLa Borbonica on Riva Di Reno is noted for its excellent classic Italian pastries, particularly from the south. The ricotta used in their cannoli is flown in from Sicily. They have a dedicated covered patio off the portico and a generous seated area inside, where you can see bakers in the glassed-off kitchen. La Borbonica offers also a large selection of “mignons” — tiny versions of their larger pastries. They are all delicious and you can have the fun of picking out a few small bites before committing to something larger.  You go to the counter (which has one of those wonderful cash machines) pick out your pastries and beverages of choice and tell the person in charge,  then you take your receipt and go to the bend in the counter and give it to one of the personnel. When they have filled your order and put it on a tray, you can take it outside or to one of the many tables available inside. 


The breakfast bar  (Caffe Letterario -Sebastiano Caridi) that we go to quite often is attached to aBreakfast at Sebastiano Caridi Caffe Letterario museum at the Palazzo Fava. There, Sebastiano Caridi, a most enterprising pastry chef from Calabria, has established a bakery, with an ample dining space in the palazzo itself, right next to its book store, and outdoor tables along the Palazzo Fava portico. This beloved spot is situated on a side street between Via dell’Indipendenza and the quieter Via Galliera. Their bakery is superlative in its offerings.  They offer a stand-up option in front of their pastry counter. In an adjacent room is their selection of chocolates, cakes and pastries for takeout. Sebastiano Caridi’s version of Panettone is superior to any of the others I have tasted. The very professional wait staff will take your order once you seat yourself at a table. Menus are offered at each table so it’s easy to make a choice. I have loved eating my breakfast on their portico, as it is quiet and breezy, and the architecture of the oratorio and church are beautiful to look at. If you have breakfast outside at one of the bars on any of the main thoroughfares of  Bologna, it’s irritating to eat with the smoke from vapers and cigarettes a near constant. That is blessedly missing at Caridi’s bar. The serenity, the unobtrusive service, and top-notch food  put this place in a class of its own.

Don’t think the opening act is also the closing act of these bakeries. All three also offer light lunch options and each has unique way of serving aperitivi in the afternoon, but that’s another story. We’re talking breakfast and with  such morning  delights available and inviting atmosphere, you won’t miss cold cereal.


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1 month ago

Recently I’ve become a huge fan of an Italian Espresso w/ a Chocolate Croissant consisting of slivers of Baker’s Chocolate inserted under the skin, then baked until just crispy. When I have my yogurt and berries, I often dream of it!