Cafe Museum Oria
World History in a Coffee Cup
I had walked past the cafe museum Oria several times before entering a very special museum that had served both German and American forces during WWII.
As other blog posts indicate (see our meeting with the mummies, the easter procession and the secret zoo) I know Oria quite well and had walked past the cafe in via Roma several times, before noticing the sign announcing “ingresso libero” at the “Piccolo Museo del Bar Carone”.
Similar coffee shops framed by brown shutters and coloured Algida posters advertising ready made ice cream cones can be seen over and over again in all Puglian towns, so apart from the sign nothing indicated an experience out of the ordinary.
Lack of Proportion
At a corner table, the proprietor was sitting totally absorbed in organizing his lottery tickets, but the request to see the museum called him to attention and he led us into the adjacent room with lots of words and a contaminating smile.
– My father and his two sisters established this cafe in 1938, so we are the oldest cafeteria in Oria. Two years ago we decided to make an exhibition of some of the utensils and machines used for making coffee, drinks and ice cream in the last century, he explained, while demonstrating the workings of old coffee griders, hydraulic juice presses and freezer aggregates.
In a glass cabinet old liquor bottles were lined up side by side with promotional give-aways and enamel trays and signs from Ramazzotti , Riccadonna, Cinzano and Martini decorate the walls.
What really strikes you when you see the old machinery is the lack of proportion. Two-by-three metres of grey steel with taps, valves and pressure gauges designed and manufactured more than fifty years ago for the sole purpose of making espresso. A huge machine for a small cup of darn good coffee.
The Real Drama of Bar Carone
But bric-a-brac, bottles and brands do not display the real drama of Bar Carone. According to the present owner, the bar survived the first years during World War II thanks to the German soldiers stationed in the area. Later American soldiers took over the barracks and airfield on the road between Oria and Manduria, and they also became frequent guests in the cafeteria and great fans of the aunts’ homemade “scarpetta” and “pasta reale”.
So in some sense you can see the big world reflected in the small cups of coffee in Oria.