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Monday, May 09, 2005



one of the great hardships of being home again is the lack of gelato. one becomes, over the course of a couple weeks, quite addicted to the notion of ice cream sans cream twice a day. for all the great places in this town for ice cream and italian ice -- including my neighborhood's secret treasure, the penguin -- gelato in its pure form seems rare.

in an effort to fix myself and my wife, we drowned ourselves in frozen custard from kopps while in milwaukee for a wedding. it was very good, of course -- but clearly not gelato. the fix didn't take.

the other major missing component of la dolce vita is coffee -- proper caffe, i mean, not the american reduction of the form. i am a big believer in starbucks and happy for the bloodless revolution that has put a coffeeshop on every streetcorner in chicago. but the dirty truth is that it simply isn't the same here. virtually all espresso in america is, in my experience, a farce of sorts: sharp, bitter and frequently overroasted to the point of charring, often enough handed to you in a miniature paper cup -- completely destroying the ritual which is the essence of the experience. one wonders if coffee would ever have become popular had it originated as such.

fortunately, it didn't. italian espresso is rich, creamy, almost silken and chocolate, invariably in ceramic service, perfectly arranged even in the smallest nook of a bar. many things in italy are memorable, but few so much as standing in a bar partaking of this most civilized of everyday human activities. so many things in life italians care little to manage closely. caffe, however, receives meticulous attention. it should.

so tonight i'm going to try to stumble over to division and damen, home of caffe gelato, a place reputedly as italian as one can construct so far from the mediterranean. i hope so. i'm suffering from a feeling that i can only describe as "homesickness" for a place i don't live.

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