Caffè italiano was set up more than 4 years ago in the heart of the European district, near Place du Luxembourg. After a couple of years, it has turned into a real meeting point, where clients can taste typical Italian products and pop down for a traditional Espresso for a couple of minutes. Brussels Express sat down with Pietro, the owner.
When did this idea came out?
I grew up in Casarano, a village in Salento, in South of Italy. I used to work in Paris for ten years. I came to Brussels about ten years ago and I first worked in an Italian restaurant. But I had the plan to set up a café for years and I really fancied running a friendly one, as those where we are used to going in Italy.
I found this place, which used to be a 2-place garage. I had to wait for months to get the authorisation to make it a café and I finally opened it in July 2012.
What does make Caffè italiano a typical Italian café?
First of all, if you have been to Italy before, you probably know that Italian people have a different way of drinking coffee. They are not used to go somewhere, sit down for half an hour with people and drink their coffee. It is indeed more about standing up at the bar for five or ten minutes and drinking an espresso as well as talking with the owner or other clients about their daily life. It is very friendly. Caffè italiano is quite a small place, and I build it up in a way that people drink their espresso as they do in Italy. That makes our relationships better. The clients talk a bit about their work, their troubles and they leave the place happier. And you will also find La Gazzetta and other Italian newspapers.
Food as well as coffee also come from my home village. If you pop down here, be sure you will eat and drink authentic Italian products! I serve lasagne, parmigiana and pasticciotto, a typical pastry from Salento. When I decided to set up the café, I also aimed at providing the clients with affordable things. This is why the espresso costs EUR 1, and the Italian dishes such as lasagne EUR 6.5.
Five persons (including me) work here. Four of us are from Salento, and the last employee is from Bergamo. Caffè italiano is therefore a real Italian place.
Where are the clients from?
Most of the clients are obviously Italians. The place became more and more famous over some months and part of the Italian community is used to gathering here. There are however many Greek and German people, too. A funny point is that everybody speaks Italian in this place. Although non-Italian people who do not speak Italian just come and ask “Ciao, un espresso per favore”. I thought we would have needed to speak English in the neighbourhood, but there is no need at all.
Do you organise special events?
We host the Italian happy hour every Thursday night. In case you have not heard about the Italian happy hour yet, it is quite different from other happy hours. People order a drink, and we serve Italian food for free (pieces of pizzas, fried dishes, pasta etc.). I do not aim at hosting huge parties, it is more about gathering people after work, and having a relaxing time while eating and drinking.
As I am a fan of the Squadra Azzura, we also broadcast the International games. During the International competitions (World and Euro Championship), the café is actually crowded. And if you fancy organising private events, such as aperitivi or birthdays, you also can contact us and we can plan something.