While the food of Calabria ranges from super spicy peppers, to fresh fruit and vegetables to meat, seafood and pasta, the breakfast food is sweet and simple. While it is true Italians eat pancettaand they love a good frittata-they’ll probably scoff if you offer them for breakfast.

In fact, one of my young neighbors asked me once about a typical American breakfast.

Bacon?” She exclaimed! “… and eggs?!? Non! Non ho capito … cosa mangiate?!?”

She was slightly disgusted by the thought of meat and eggs in the morning-until she tried it on vacation in Berlin, but that’s another story, I suppose-and couldn’t understand why anyone would want such heavy food for breakfast.

So, if you are heading to Calabria, here’s the what, when and where of eating a Calabrian breakfast.

What to Eat
Like other places in Italy, a Calabrian breakfast is usually little more than a cornetto with caffè or cappuccino … but that by no means, makes it boring. There are dozens of varieties of cornetti, or croissants, that vary from plain to those filled with cream, Nutella, hazelnut and even an assortment of fruit flavors, such as peach, apple or pear. There are also light pastries that are filled with lemon cream, apples or my personal favorite, black cherries, as well as the brioche, a type of sweet bread.

Contrary to what some might think, Calabrians don’t typically eat fruit for breakfast. However, one of my favorite summer breakfast meals is figs and homemade bread, which is apparently an exception … at least in Catanzaro.

Sometimes Calabrians will also have fruit juice, usually pear, peach or apricot. They very rarely drink that good ‘ole American fruit beverage of choice … OJ.

Where To Eat It
I know some Calabrians who have breakfast at the bar every single morning. Others prefer to take their morning coffee at home and either munch on light cookies or store-bought croissants.

If you are traveling to Calabria for vacation, your hotel or B&B will likely include breakfast in your nightly rate-and if you are staying at a resort hotel, they might even throw in those bacon and eggs. However, I suggest you skip breakfast at your hotel at least once and head into a local bar for a real Calabrian breakfast experience.

How To Eat It
Some of my favorite bars around Catanzaro have little or no indoor seating and in fact, it was one of the first things I noticed when I visited southern Italy. However, if you do break away from your B&B one morning, you’ll understand that bars don’t have many tables, because Calabrians don’t sit. They order their coffee and cornetto and eat it while standing at the bar, usually taking no more than a few minutes for their whole meal.

Depending on the type of cornetto or brioche they ordered, they might also dip it into their cappuccino … so dip at leisure.

A few hours later, typically after 10:00 AM or so, most Calabrians will have a mid-morning snack, usually a panino or in some cases, especially for those old-timers back in the historical center of Catanzaro … morzello and pitta bread.

What is your favorite part of an Italian breakfast? What kind of pastry do you prefer?

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11 Responses
  1. I eat as local as I can.. Mind you my hubby and I normally stay in self catering.. so have breakfast in the apartment , but if we didn’t , It would be as the locals do.

    Good for you! You should definitely go into a bar at have breakfast at least once.

  2. joanne at frutto della passione

    When my husband and I moved to Milan from Rome we had to get used to asking for brioche (for everything) e cappuccio for breakfast. If we asked for a cornetto they thought we meant the ice cream!

    My favourites are the fruit filled ones, apple or blueberry and my cappuccio must be rigorosamente tiepido!!

    Ha, that is so interesting, Joanne. Thanks for sharing that. Now I’ll know what to say when I’m in Milan! I like the fruit ones, too, esp the lemon, apple or yea, the black cherry!

  3. irishjen

    So true Cherr…….. you can imagine F’s face when i mention an Irish/English fry up….SCHIFO!!!!;O

    And he’s pretty liberal, Jen! EVERY now and I then I make pancakes and P’ll eat them. But he’d never request them.

  4. Guess we are boring in our part of Calabria Cherrye. Doug seldom eats breakfast as he did in the US. I have cereal with fresh milk )not the boxed stuff) and we don’t go to bars anymore in the morning unless for a caffe over a business discussion. About once a month we’ll fry some pancetta and scramble some eggs. If really motivated, we’ll make French toast and apply some very rare maple syrup that we horde to it. We do smell fried pancetta (bacon) on the streets now and then, so figure that our neighbors are whipping up some sort of “English” breakfast.

    I don’t know what I’d do if I smelled bacon in the mornings … probably go invite myself in! lol I probably should have specified that we don’t eat in the bars every day, either. Rarely, actually with our B&B. I usually have cereal, too or sometimes those Grancereal cookies dipped in cappuccino.

  5. Milky coffee and biscuits if I’m at home, but macchiato and pastry if I’m out. The other day I had cannoli filled with sweetened ricotta – delicious. I also like pasticciotto, but I haven’t noticed those in the bars here in Calabria, and I know they’re a Puglian speciality, so I may be out of luck on those for the time being. I’ve only been here a week, though, so I’m still discovering things.

    Oh, on a coffee note, if I asked for an espressino here in Calabria would I be laughed at or would they know what I was talking about? I’m not sure if it’s a specifically Puglian thing or not …

    Oh, Kate, I’m not sure … I’ll ask P when he gets back. I also haven’t heard of that pastry, but to be honest, I don’t always know the names of the pastries … just what’s inside!

  6. I should have mentioned that as pensioners, we aren’t stopping for caffe on the way to work like others. In little towns like our’s, the bars just have frozen pastries warmed up, Larger towns like Scalea or Tropea, and you see wonderful pastries in some bars and more professional people with time to stop and relax a little longer for breakfast on the way to work than our community does. Our workers manage to have a pannini and warm beer between 830 and 1000. Yummy eh?!

    Oh yea, the frozen ones aren’t near as tempting as the real deal. Maybe you are lucky? he he

  7. Have you not noticed how different the Italian corpo is from the American or English body? The stomach is closed between meals and you must tease it open. You can’t be throwing the garden furniture in there while the door is only slightly agape! Ergo, the Italian sips a teensy caffè or a bowl of caffè latte and a small sweet thing. The stomach consents to be open. At 10:30 or 11 the Italian can throw a panino (garden furniture) in there and the stomach won’t protest– much. By 1 PM, the stomach is at her desk and busy receiving calls, rejecting claims, flirting with the liver and posting what she has worked on. At 2 she will go on pausa again and she prefers that you lie down and quit bothering her.

    LOVE this, Judith. Flirting with the liver … that’s priceless!

  8. So, funny since moving here I’ve definitely cut back on heavy “American” breakfasts. Now I usually have a little yogurt.

    Once in a blue moon I do make pancakes or French toast. In Rome many of the supermarkets have started to sell syrup from Canada.

    ooooh, Maple syrup? Yum!

  9. leslie

    After my trip to Soverato I eat breakfast like a Calabian every morning. Except I can’t do it at the local bar B-(

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