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Granita: Italy’s Famed Chilled Coffee

Antico Caffe Greco granita

First you have to learn to pronounce it, so that years from now, when you are old and gray, standing at a counter and in need of the magical potion, it will sound right: granita, rhymes with margarita. If you’re in Italy, you have to add di caffè, a coffee granita. (I won’t discuss other flavors such as lemon, which are also classics.) Here is what it looks like at the Antico Caffè Greco (86 Via dei Condotti; 39-06/679-1700), in Rome: a chalice of frosted silver, bearing a small mound of frothy brown ice with a generous dab of whipped cream (real cream). The recipe is something of a secret (it consists of water and coffee, some sugar—not too much—and in some cases a bit of liqueur). Italians say, “Anche l’occhio vuole la sua parte”—the eye wants its share, too. When I see a granita coming toward my marble-topped table on a hot day, the sight alone makes my temperature drop. The fresh flavor of chilled coffee fills my mouth as the ice melts and mixes with that rich, room-temperature cream. It is a completely addictive combination. I have to have one every summer afternoon when I’m in Rome, at around four, an antidote to the heat.

Photo by Andrea Wyner

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