If Lisa B. hadn’t bent the rules that day on our way to Malpensa Airport, I might never have experienced C-Colzani Caffè. And that, i mie amici, would have been a major loss to my aspiring Inner Italian lifestyle.
C-Colzani has been named Gambero Rosso’s Bar of the Year for two years running. It is artisanal, sleek, smart, and gustoso. It is the creation of the young, talented brothers Marco and Andrea Colzani.
But I’m jumping ahead in the story. Lisa hadn’t premeditated going rogue but her instincts are sharp. As the representative of the travel firm sponsoring the familiarization trip to the Lake Como area, she was charged with keeping us on schedule. One evening, we dined at il Griso hotel near Lecco on the eastern branch of the lake.
The lavish table looked like it had been shipped in from Buckingham Palace. The view seemed like a hologram of impossible Alpine perfection. Lisa was seated at the opposite end of the banquet next to a representative of a regional hospitality group. His name was Andrea Colzani and he looked like a model escaped from an Ermenegildo Zegna ad. But as he starting sharing stories of the award-winning caffè founded by his father more than 30 years ago, Lisa tuned in even more.
By the ride back to our hotel, Lisa had formulated the plan. She polled the group to ask who wanted to stop at C-Colzani the day after next. “It’s literally right on the way to the airport. If we shave 30 minutes off our morning itinerary, we can do it,” she assured us.
The vote was a resounding “yes.” The next day, she phoned Andrea to alert him of our visit.
If you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal about a tiny diversion from an itinerary?” this is the deal: These fam trips are more tightly scripted than a sit-com. Italian regional tourism organizers are so keen to share tutto that every nano-second is scheduled.
On Friday morning, we headed south on SS36 from Lecco and pulled off 11 miles later near Cassago Brianza into what appeared to be an attractive but unassuming suburban shopping strip. We were greeted inside the Caffè with such warmth that I kept looking over my shoulder to see if a Papal delegation was coming in behind us.
Several of us immediately crowded around the pastry cases. Others received a welcome tour of the ultra-chic hotel and spa from Andrea, who handles the design, management, and promotion. A couple of us headed straight for the coffee bar. Good choice when you’re about to depart Italy.
I was lucky to meet brother Marco who started telling me me about his work in chocolate and coffee. His enthusiasm was so genuine, I think he would have been willing to spend all day with us if not for that waiting airplane. (Marco blogs about his concoctions here.)
Marco is a food and wine enologist who trained in Milan. His is one of only a handful of artisinal caffès in Italy that blends and roasts its own coffee beans and starts with cocoa beans to make its finished chocolates. “From bean to bar,” as Marco put it. Their C-Amaro (bitter) chocolate is gaining international attention. They were the only Italian chocolatier to represent Italy in the recent Chocolate Week in London event.
The chocolate is a blend of beans from Ecuador, Venezuela, Trinidad, and the small African island Sao Tome. Marco combines different beans as a winemakers selects grapes for different flavor and body characteristics. While lesser chocolates might contain soy lecithin, vanilla, and other additives, C-Amaro is chocolate and cane sugar, basta.
Of course, I brought some C-Amaro home with me. With every unctuous mouthful, I celebrated the rewards of flexibility.
Hotel, Lounge, Vini
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