Dip Fresh Focaccia In Coffee For A Signature Italian Experience

Fresh focaccia that takes a quick dip in a creamy, bitter, cappuccino is a quintessential Genovese breakfast experience. For the uninitiated, it might sound strange to combine salt, bread, and loads of olive oil with milk, coffee, and a little sugar, but not only do these seemingly disparate ingredients go together, they sing.

Let's break it down — dipping something bready or carby into coffee makes sense. Sweets like donuts, chewy cookies, and crisp biscuits all make great dippers, and so does something salty like buttered toast or a plain croissant. Olive oil, for its fruity and citrusy notes, also pairs well with coffee. Even Starbucks Reserve has an olive oil, oat milk, and vanilla cold brew latte.

This combination is all about balance. The salty bread balances out the creamy, roasty cappuccino. The slightly bitter and floral olive oil plays off the different bitter dimensions of the coffee. Plus, what is tastier than a crisp-gone-slightly-soggy situation? Maybe that texture isn't for everyone, so if you aren't quite ready for the full dip, consider sampling the two side-by-side to at least taste the complementary flavors. You'll feel like you've been transported to Italy itself as you caffeinate for the day.

What is different about Genovese focaccia?

Focaccia is an Italian flat-shaped bread baked in a sheet pan. It is similar to pizza dough though it typically incorporates more yeast in the dough and is left to rise again after being flattened. Focaccia also has signature divots, made by the baker dimpling the top of the dough with their fingers. Before baking, the whole slab of bread is then doused in olive oil, which collects generously in the little craters in the dough. Once cooked, focaccia is crisp on the outside, light and pillowy soft on the inside, and has a melt-in-your-mouth quality from the hefty amount of olive oil. It is usually between a half and one inch thick and can be topped simply with salt or lightly adorned with herbs, vegetables, cheeses, olives, anchovies, and alliums.

Liguria in Genova, Italy is known for a slightly different version that is regionally referred to as fügassa. It is thinner than most focaccias at half an inch thick or less, and the texture on the outside is more crisp and the inside a bit more chewy. Ingredients include flour, water, salt, yeast, olive oil, and also sometimes lard, as well.

Where can you try this regional specialty?

The best place to try this dish is in Genova, of course, because the truth is that it can be a real challenge to find great focaccia outside of Italy. However, if you are lucky enough to live in a place with an authentic Italian bakery or focacceria, that is a great place to start. Get there early as focaccia is best when served as fresh as possible. There is also another reason to get there early — if you ask an Italian when you should drink a cappuccino, they will tell you emphatically that it is a morning drink.

To really get a sense of this pairing, start with a piece of this thinner style of focaccia simply seasoned with salt, also called focaccia Genovese, and a cappuccino with just a little bit of sugar. The saltiness is balanced by the sweetness, and the bread and cappuccino are both rich in different, but complementary, ways. Focaccia topped with thinly sliced onion, or focaccia cipolla, makes for a sweet and piquant traditional combination, and yes, even onion-topped focaccia dunked into a foamy cappuccino is a delightful pairing.