It cannot be understated how seriously Italy take its espresso. How many countries do you know of that have submitted their favorite coffee beverage for UNESCO status? And remember when earlier this year the mere idea of the price of espresso going up by just €.50 sent a portion of the country into a froth?
Espresso is serious business over in The Boot, as one of Italy’s most renowned specialty cafes Ditta Artigianale found out, when a customer up and called the cops on them for charging €2 for an espresso and not displaying the price on their menu. And it cost Ditta Artigianale €1,000.
Per The Guardian, a customer came in Ditta Artigianale (featured here in Sprudge all the way back in 2014) to order a decaf espresso and was asked to pay €2, roughly double the standard €1 to €1.10 charged at other, non-specialty coffee bars around the country. The patron later called the police, ultimately resulted in Ditta Artigianale receiving a €1,000 fine.
The price of the espresso itself—roughly $2.10 USD, which is wildly inexpensive compared to what the US pays for espresso—was not what cause the fine for the coffee bar, but because the price was allegedly not displayed anywhere on the menu. This, per The Local, runs afoul of what some are calling an “outdated” law requiring all cafes in Italy to display prices behind the counter or on a menu. In a Facebook post, Ditta Artigianale owner Francesco Sanapo stated that the price was displayed on a digital menu that was accessible via scanning a QR code found in the cafe.
Sanapo, three-time Italian Barista Champion and 2019 Italy Cup Tasters Champion, has been working to elevate the perception of coffee in Italy for over a decade. Ditta Artigianale was among the first cafes in Florence to offer a selection of filter coffee with choice of brewer (V60, AeroPress, etc) along with their full espresso menu. In 2014, journalist Giulia Mulé described Sanapo’s goal: “to communicate to his customers how much work and skills go into preparing a cup of coffee. [Sanapo] hopes to change the Italian perspective of espresso from something that is consumed quickly while standing at the counter, almost like a medicine, to a drink that is savoured slowly and appreciated fully.”
In a subsequent video, Sanapo avers that he respects the law and will pay the fine, but his real issue is with “Italy’s fixation on having access to cheap coffee at the expense of good quality.” In an interview with Italy’s Repubblica, Sanapo states:
“Think about it: with one euro you cannot pay a sustainable wage to those who produce coffee, you can’t pay for the professionalism of those who are trained to a high level in hospitality. With one euro we generate poverty throughout the supply chain, we create illegal jobs or workers who are underpaid even when all goes well. A one euro cup of coffee means using poor quality products.”
What could have gone down as a simple mistake, fine paid, menu items added, next in line please! has turned into a vicious online debate over digital menu limitations, the real value of coffee, and re-sparked an ongoing conversation about the ubiquitous one euro Italian espresso and whether or not Italian espresso drinkers are ready to pay more.
Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.