The word “Si” in our company name represents many things – it means Yes, as in, “Si, I’d like an espresso please.” Si is also an abbreviation for Staten Island, where we’ve proudly planted our roots and Si, as in “I do” since we are a husband and wife team.
In order to tell our story, it’s important to go back in time. Our passion and appreciation for espresso actually begins a long time ago.
Both of us grew up around the daily espresso long before it was fashionable. It was an integral part of our life. If I had to pinpoint the definitive moment when espresso came into my life specifically, I can recall the moment. I remember a symphony of sounds and aroma that was the highlight of our Sunday afternoon at nonno and nonna’s house. After we had spent 5 hours at the dinner table celebrating our big meal, and 90° minuto. The table was cleared and so the ritual began. Out came several sets of demitasse cups lined in gold and cradled by an equally ornate saucer. My grandmother assembled the porcelain followed by the chimes of the sterling silver spoons. As a child, I was fascinated by all the pomp and circumstance and the adults playing with dainty cups. From the kitchen the whistling sound of la macchinetta beckoned from the stovetop spewing coffee. The vapor emanating from the macchinetta indicated, I’m ready. My grandmother paraded the octagonal masterpiece from the kitchen to the dining room. The hot metal glowed and commanded attention. The coffee was now ready. The adults would say, “Scotta, it’s hot.” Then came time to pour. Everyone picked their poison - Sugar, Pink Sweet & Low packets, anisette, grappa were readily available. And then came the stirring. You knew exactly how many times you had to stir – there was a distinct sound as the spoon hit the sides of the cup and a finite number of times you were allowed before it was considered rude or annoying. I was entranced as I watched them sip their espresso. One, then two sips and they were finished. It was brief, but very satisfying. I had a sense I just had just witnessed something very special. It was a high art. Our adoration of espresso. And that was my first recollection of learning all about the Italian art of coffee.
As I got older, my mother would let me take a more active role, as I prepared for the espresso and gathered the tazze and spoons. One weekend while I was helping wash the dishes from the Sunday big meal, I started piling the liquid soap on top of the dolby pad and proceeded to wash the beloved macchinetta. My mother wailed “NOOOOO, what are you doing?” I immediately knew I had done something terribly wrong as I noticed the disappointment on my mother’s face. “You never clean the inside of the macchinetta with soap.” I was floored. My mother, the woman who dedicated entire weekends to cleaning her silverware and china, who washed and ironed every piece of clothing. Why would you not clean it? Was this a joke? My little sister threw me a look of “What’s the matter with you, even I know that.” Mom explained that the macchinetta got better with each and every use. Soap should never come into contact with the macchinetta. You just rinse it. When you buy a brand new macchinetta, you never drink the first coffees you make. You pour them down the drain. You have to gently “break it in”. That story would be retold to amuse family and friends alike, all of who laughed and shook their heads fully knowing it just was not done.
Every good Italian household had a collection of macchinette from small to super-size me. There was the one cup for the solitary drinker, the two cup for couples, the six cupper on the weekends with the family and the almighty mother of all macchinette, the 12-cup, only appeared when we made granita in the summertime.
My education on coffee has evolved since then and the tools we use for coffee extraction are more sophisticated. However, I have a deep respect for coffee and the rituals associated with it. I hope you have enjoyed this story. Many of our clients who own restaurants often share similar stories with us about growing up with espresso. If you’d like to share a story, let us know and maybe we’ll publish it in our next blog. We’d love to hear from you!
- Adriana Cento
Adriana and her husband Vincenzo are the owners of Sí, Espresso