Travel Flavor: Rome. Sant Eustachio: Espresso summit.
There is American coffee, long and sweet, perfect with sausage links and pancakes topped with vanilla maple syrup. And there is french coffee and milk for buttery croissants, or to sip alongside a fresh, crunchy baguette with marmalade. There is German coffee – which works as a turpentine replacement in a pinch – Cuban, Turkish, Ethiopian, Neopolitan, Italian…and then there is Sant’Eustachio.
They don’t really make coffee so much as an out-of-this-world espresso emulsion that even Adria, (the looney genius chef of the now closed El Bulli,) wouldn’t be able to emulate. People have been speculating for years what Sant’Eustachio adds to its grind that makes that lovely, fragrant, creamy foam. Egg whites? Some kind of grain? Alka Selzer? Some secret mechanism in the old espresso machines they use?
Could it be that they continue to buy the best coffee beans on the market, blend and then roast them perfectly, and slowly train their barristas – Marcello in particular. He’s usually at the machine on the left as you walk in, medium height and build, in his 50’s, and worth his weight in gold as he is, in my opinion, the best barrista in the world – until they have full control of the proper technique to make in turn the best espresso in the world? Nah, must be the egg whites. Anyway.
The bar is a very short walk from the Pantheon. And though the coffee in the bar is good all day, the Pantheon usually gets packed like a sardine can from 11:00 on. So get there, to Sant’Eustachio, early-ish, before the tourists tire of hanging out in front of the old, magnificent building nearby. On the way to the bar, behind and to the right of the Pantheon from the piazza, you might want to veer even further right into San Luigi to take a long peak at the Caravaggios in the church. You could even try to linger there awhile but the sardines, er, French tourist groups, usually swim in to see the paintings before getting netted by a tour group leader and then hauled to the piazza in front of the Pantheon. The piazza itself used to be a a low marketplace from which you had to take the stairs up into famous building. But centuries of, well, garbage, and one or two lost French tourists, accumulated into the mound you now have to move down from to get to the steps. Anyway.
Back at the bar, after the first sip of espresso a serene smile will appear on your face and you’ll probably forget about the garbage dump in front of the Pantheon, Caravaggio and pretty much everything else. But if after spooning the last of the heavenly foam into your mouth you decide to take a stroll in a different direction, say, to Campo de’ Fiori, and by chance a French tourist mistakes you for a Roman and asks you directions to Sant’ Eustachio, point them to the piazza in front of the Pantheon instead. Keep the bar, its espresso and Marcello for yourself.
link – coffee: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brewing-a-great-cup-of-coffee-depends-on-chemistry-and-physics/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=sa-editorial-social&utm_content&utm_term=chemistry_partner_text_free