15 Dec 2017

The coffee in : Christmas in the Cupiello’s house

Article by Michele Sergio published in L’Espresso Neapolitan of the month of December 2017

Coffee as an inevitable element in Neapolitan homes even at Christmas time

Sorbing a cup of coffee for a Neapolitan is an act that goes far beyond simply consuming a drink. It is also and above all the celebration of a ritual, with sociological implications, it is the perpetuation of tradition, the renewal, from time to time, ancient customs and established customs.

Drinking a tazzulella and cafè is made and image that, in fact, goes beyond a simple gesture of Neapolitan daily life, having found wide representation in cinema, music, literature and, finally, in theater.

In the work, perhaps, more famous than the great Eduardo, Natale in Casa Cupiello, coffee is even a protagonist, introducing and closing the course of the play.

It begins in the first act with Concetta, the wife of Luca Cupiello, who tries to accelerate the operations of awakening the spouse bringing him to bed the inevitable cup of coffee. It will not be a good day for Luca to see the beginning with the lack of goodness of the coffee of Concetta undrinkable for her husband, with the smell and repellent taste (“fet ” and scarrafone”, stink of cockroach!). There is a passage in the dialogue between the spouses Cupiello from which is shown the love that the Neapolitans nourish for coffee: Luca addressing his wife tells her “with coffee is not spared”, which means the Neapolitan can for necessity to economize with everything but with the coffee that must always be good, quality!

In the third act, towards the end of the work, a plethora of family, friends, acquaintances and neighbors, crowd the room where Luca is in bed at the end of life. The goalkeeper of the building takes care of serving everyone present a cup of coffee, to restore the family during the long vigil to the elusive protagonist, to offer to others – who seem to expect nothing more than the opportunity to drink for free coffee – with the repetition of an ancient custom of every house in Naples, what must always be offered to a guest: a coffee!

In short, the Eduardiana lectio is simple: never miss a true Neapolitan coffee, in every moment of life, whether joy or pain, commitment or fun, from the beginning of the day to the end of the same. And then to the Neapolitans and not: good coffee to all and Merry Christmas!


Christmas at home Cupiello is Eduardo De Filippo’s most famous tragicomic comedy. Represented for the first time at the Kursaal theater in Naples on December 25, 1931, it was originally conceived as a single act (what is now the second act) but the great Neapolitan dramatist had the brilliant idea, given the considerable success of critics and audience, to “enrich it” with a first act (where the individual characters are more clearly and precisely defined) and a third act that closes this epic Christmas story. There are many reflections and ideas that can be extrapolated from this play. The one that most of all makes us reflect (and at the same time smile) the spectator is the difficult father-son relationship (Luca and Tommasino). The difference between the two is so deep that the question “You like ‘or presepio?” (The crib is the greatest passion of Luca) always comes the usual and unpleasant dry “No!”. Only at the end of the play will the two reconcile and exactly when the son, at the bedside of his dying father, will respond with a suffering “Yes!” To the question posed by his father on the crib.