Strange things have been happening lately. I don’t like raw onions, yet I found myself in the middle of an entire festival devoted to the humble vegetable. And I don’t drink coffee either. Yet I slowly savored not one, but two cappuccinos each morning while staying at the bed and breakfast above Caffè dell’Arte in Locarno (an Italian city in all ways – it just happens to be across the border in Switzerland).
Antonella Patelli’s cappuccino encompasses everything about how she runs the café and hotel above the Fondazione Patrizio Patelli and art gallery - its authenticity, superior quality, presentation, attention to detail, passion and excellent design. As you drop your spoon into the foam of a typical cappuccino, it tends to collapse and slowly disappear. Whereas here, the foam is rich, thick and soars above the rim of the cup like a successful soufflé. Yet it doesn’t fall like one. Dipping our hot croissants into our coffees, it was like scooping up meringue. The foam was so thick that you didn’t even get any coffee on your croissant when dipping the first several times, just foam.
Antonella let us know that it’s simply a question of time. When she insisted on a second round of cappuccinos, she always came back saying these would be better than the first, because she was able to take more time to make them. A precise quantity of coffee in each espresso. The thinnest stream possible when the coffee drips out of the machine. The hot and frothed milk that is ready at just the same time as the espresso. And her passion. That is why she is known for having one of the best cappuccinos in the city.
We slept in comfortable, clean and stylish rooms upstairs, and each morning joined the local shop owners downstairs in the bright room where contemporary meets stone in this historical building. Fashionable plateware on the table, individual butters sitting on a bed of ice, tall dishes of thick yogurt, croissants, fresh bread and a multi-tiered platter of dried meats, cheese and playful fruit kebabs. I’d go back just for the breakfast… and more animated conversations in a mix of French and Italian with Antonella, so warm and friendly. To say that this hotel was a find is a real understatement. Not listed in guide books, it’s in the very heart of Locarno’s old town, a hop skip and jump from the main square, Piazza Grande. It’s hard to call it a hotel; it feels more like you’re staying at Antonella’s home. And whether or not you drink coffee, you’ll look forward to sipping one of her cappuccinos and listening to her talk about her artwork, the foundation in her husband’s name, her children, where to go out for dinner in town… or that cappuccino.
Via Cittadella 9