Sometimes a classic needs no improvements.
My friend Mark has one of those fancy espresso machines, and I love it. It makes rich, delicious espresso in seconds, and it looks gorgeous, gleaming on the counter in his pantry. Whenever I’m at his house picking up the kids, or having dinner, or borrowing something, I get an espresso, made fresh and served in a little cup. It picks me up.
Mark’s wife is first-generation Italian-American—her parents know from espresso. The other night we were standing in their kitchen after a movie, and I noticed something I’ve seen a thousand times but never thought about: her collection of old-fashioned stovetop espresso makers, lined up on a shelf above the refrigerator like museum pieces.
One in particular brought me back to the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 2000s. My girlfriend at the time had a Bialetti, the original—an inexpensive, perfect contraption created in Italy by Alfonso Bialetti 80 years ago. She would make us both espresso on the tiny gas stove in her tiny apartment, the first espressos I ever drank. I thought she was exotic and sophisticated, and I loved that she loved things that were authentic.
I still do. We’ve been married sixteen years.
Maybe they do belong in a museum, these things. The Museum of Things Replaced By Allegedly Better Technology. But they still work—most of those old replaced things, and the stovetop espresso maker in particular. The Bialetti Moka Express brought old-world coffee-making to people all over the world. Like all great design, its beauty stems from its function. The aluminum construction makes it strong and light and easy to handle. My wife and I still have the old Bialetti, and the espresso is still great.