Caffe Shakerato and Other Gleanings From Trieste

Caffe Shakerato. Photo by Keri White
I recently visited Trieste, a beautiful city on the Adriatic Sea in Northeastern Italy. For most of its history, Trieste was part of Austria-Hungary and served as the empire’s main port.
Because of its relative proximity to Turkey, the Middle East and its deep-water port access to the Far East, Trieste was a strategic and highly prized location. Italy entered World War I intending to annex the territory from Trieste in the east to the Alps in the west.
After Italy took possession, Mussolini declared that he had liberated the Italian-speaking population from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and, starting in 1922, required the “Italianization” of all the newly annexed territories.
This policy displeased many of the region’s residents, including the Jews of Trieste, who historically enjoyed a diverse city that welcomed all religions and cultures. That inclusive tradition dates to 1751, when Empress Maria Theresa, head of the House of Hapsburg, de
declared Trieste open to all religions.
Nero. Photo by Keri White

In fact, Trieste is home to one of the largest synagogues in Europe. Opened in 1912, the Synagogue of Trieste had, at its peak, a membership of 5,000 families. The number has since dwindled to about 500 families.

Because many of the Jewish residents of Trieste shared a culture and a language that aligned more with Austro-Hungarian traditions, there was an exodus in response to Mussolini’s Italianization policy. In 1938, as Nazism raged across Europe, Mussolini stood in the main piazza of Trieste and announced Italy’s anti-Jewish racial laws, including the exclusion of Jews from a variety of jobs, a ban on mixed marriages and a loss of nationality. In response, many Jews fled.
Then, during World War II, 7,000 of the remaining Jews were taken from Trieste by the Nazis to concentration camps; at war’s end, only 700 returned. Despite the turbulent history, the city retains a strong identity of diversity and reflects the many cultures that have dwelt there.
Trieste is considered the coffee capital of Italy.
Capo in bi. Photo by Keri White

In most of Italy, the per-capita coffee consumption is about 12.8 pounds; in Trieste, it is nearly twice that. The major international coffee producer, Illy, is headquartered there, and Trieste traces its coffee history to the 1500s when a physician named Prospero Alpini brought beans back from Egypt to sell in pharmacies.

People loved it, but the buzz it delivered was viewed with suspicion by Catholics, who associated both the drink and the sensation with Muslim infidels. However, Pope Clement VIII loved coffee and refused to ban it.
Fast forward to 1719 when Trieste was named a tax-free port, encouraging trade with the Ottoman Empire and making coffee importation a huge business.
As a result, caffes popped up all over the city, and there are many still operating that date back several centuries. Many of the caffes feel more Germanic than Italian — at least the older ones do — and the architecture and overall vibe reflect the Central European history.
We spent a lot of time in these caffes and learned the local coffee lingo.
In most of Italy, espresso is just a small cup of strong black coffee, the same as in the U.S. In Trieste, it’s called a nero, literally translated as “black.” (If you order an espresso, the barista will know what you want, but if you want to sound like a local, say nero.)
Cappuccino is traditionally served in a glass as opposed to a cup, so the order for that is capo in bi. In one or two of the fancier coffee shops, a coffee will be served with a small glass of liquid chocolate. And in hot weather, a caffe shakerato is a delicious way to cool down.
Synagogue of Trieste. Photo by Keri White

Caffe Shakerato

Serves 1
The name of this drink takes the English word “shaken” and Italianizes it — and that’s really what it is, which is shaken coffee. Recipes can include milk or not — I always had it with milk, which results in a creamy, frappe-like drink that’s quite heavenly.
I also made a version with a tablespoon or two of amaretto liquor as a dessert, which was a big hit with my dinner guests. If you are looking for a pareve drink or prefer to avoid dairy, this can be made with just coffee and sugar, or you can swap in nondairy milk.
2 shots espresso
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons milk (or more if a creamier drink is desired)
¾ cups ice cubes
In a cocktail shaker or a jar with a lid, place the hot coffee and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar then add the ice and milk, if using.
Shake the mixture well for about 30 seconds until foamy. Strain it into a pretty martini glass or stemmed coupe glass and enjoy.


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