Espresso Self

Great writers had their vices, some of liquid, powder, loose-leaf and/or solid form. Walter Benjamin took to his mescaline and William Faulkner once said, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.” I consider myself to be a budding wordsmith striving for a lucrative writing career, but I keep to legal and caffeinated stimulants. Cappuccinos, mochas, lattés, café this and that’s, you name it, I’ve sipped it to galvanize creativity and I fully blame the espresso bean for its impetuous qualities on which I am hooked.

There is no such thing as bad espresso, some espressos just happen to be better than others. Today, in the North End, I took to Hanover Street on a java reconnaissance. Must find the perfect tiny porcelain cup of espresso, I thought as I strolled into Modern Pastry, Caffe Vittoria and Caffe Lil Italy. Farewell, fatigue!

As soon as I walked into Modern Pastry I was hit by a fragrance-wall of fresh breakfast pastries. Buttery, flaky breads and warm berry fillings inspired my palate. My eyes took in the colorful imports and cupcake sprinkles but immediately settled on the gleaming coffee machine behind the counter. One quick cash-only transaction later I sat down with my espresso, tapped in a bit of sugar and embraced the bitterness. I needed a bit of milk to cut the bite, but I jitter-bugged my way to the next café.

Caffe Vittoria was Boston’s first Italian café, established in 1929. The old coffee machines, serving as an eclectic and accumulative beacon of the past, created the backbone of Caffe Vittoria’s ambience and nostalgia. The wireless Internet gave it modern-day appeal. My cup of Lavazza espresso went down smoothly, and I mellowed for a while to let the buzz settle.

I felt I had the mental capacity to write an epic, threefold novel, or the perfect stream-of-consciousness, but I ventured off the beaten-path to Caffe Lil Italy. It was a small, reliable, less frilly and less obvious spot that might not see as much foot-traffic as the previous cafes, but my to-go cup was a damn good one. Perhaps the sweet difference was a switch to brown sugar, but I would certainly recommend Caffe Lil Italy to any coffee connoisseur. It was a delight. The table of elderly Italian men shooting the breeze and sipping their own espresso drinks confirmed the integrity of this establishment.

I implore you to take it upon yourselves to explore every side street of Boston’s historically rich neighborhood that is the North End. Both printed and online sources can only offer so many reviews and you’ll never know what will hit your senses with newfound content and keep you coming back for more.

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