On a recent holiday to Venice, I’d all but given up on having a decent coffee at breakfast time. Without naming any names, it seems bizarre to me that a famous five-star hotel that can get just about everything else right can’t make a good cappuccino. The china it came in was very pretty, but everything about the beverage itself was anaemic and gutless.
A friend who has an apartment close to the Rialto Market told me to try Caffè del Doge, which should have been on my radar before. It’s been around since 2003, and it’s been exporting its roasts as far as Japan and South America, with franchised cafés popping up in Egypt too. The original café is hidden away down a tiny alleyway near the market and, even in the blazing heat of the summer season, attracts more locals than transatlantic visitors. It’s small, but very comfortable, with neat little Formica corner tables, and some delicious marmalade-filled croissants to see you through to lunch.
Then there’s the coffee. Such coffee! There are all manner of curious specialities here, including a thick chocolate and double espresso drink that will lift your head off, but it’s the cappuccino (€1.40 or €2.50 seated) that they’re known for. It has such depth and such creaminess that every hotel manager in Venice should send their staff for training to the café, while investing in the same piston-driven espresso machines.
Part of the secret is in the beans – they have three types: Doge Rosso (100 per cent Arabica); Doge Nero (Arabica blended with Kaapi Royal from India); and a Doge Blu (97 per cent decaf). They also sell a wide range of tins and bags of their roasts (€2.50 for 100g), so you can take them home. While I find the packaging as appealing as everything else about the place, I haven’t bothered in buying any takeaway product – it’s inevitable that without Caffè del Doge’s expert baristas, my attempts at creating the perfect latte at home wouldn’t be anywhere near as magical.