ARLINGTON – “Why are there so many people here?” an insistent 3-year-old Giacomo Baiamonte asked as he looked over a crowd squeezing into a corner of the Stilly Valley Collective.
With that welcome, the mop-haired boy’s parents, Antonio and Kiersten, declared the grand opening of Caffe Italiano March 1, the newest barista stop brewing a little Italian coffee culture downtown.
The Baiamontes already operate their travel business, Bio-Monte tours of Italy, from an office inside the building at 103 E. 3rd St.
The building has gained a second life as a co-working space for about a dozen small businesses and headquarters for the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The tour-guiding couple decided to get into the coffee business after an office-wide question made the rounds in StillCo for anyone who wanted to open an espresso stand in an unused alcove by the building entrance.
“I said the only coffee culture I know is Italian culture and their passion. The Italians have a quality of life that is directly connected to their food culture, and their coffee culture,” Kiersten said. “So we thought that was an opportunity to bring that coffee culture to Arlington.”
Antonio, whose family is from Sicily, said, “It’s a handy spot to have so close to our office inside; we landed in a great situation.”
With the cafe’s color scheme, along with images of Italy, travel keepsakes and pastries, it’s a natural springboard to talk to people about tours of Italy over coffee.
The cafe’s brew is organic, fair trade Mio Coffee from Italy based in Seattle and owned by fellow Italian Fabio Garofalo. He also hand-trained the three baristas who run the cafe when the Baiamontes are away leading tours.
The Baiamontes got a hand from local businesses to get running. The Blue Bird Cafe offered commercial kitchen storage space and Moe’s Espresso shared advice and ideas. Petite Sweet Bakery, a once-popular Arlington bakery that has since moved to Everett, will have retail shelf space featuring Italian-wrapped cookies.
The cafe also has pastries including cornetto, and lady fingers, all central to “the sweetness of doing nothing” while sipping a coffee or cappocino, Kiersten said.