Wake up & Smell the Coffee
STORY BY COLIN MCALLISTER & JUSTIN RYAN
SPRING 2019 – LUXE MAGAZINE – WWW.LUXEMAGCANADA.COM
It’s time to luxe up your caffeine intake, and your kitchen style say Colin and Justin.
IT’S NO SECRET that Canadians love (as do we) their coffee. Statistics proclaim it’s the country’s second most consumed beverage, after water. Literally all year round. Aye, whatever the barometric charts care to deliver, Canadians seem hell bent on lapping up their beloved bean juice at every single turn.
Our own love affair with coffee started many moons ago whilst filming a TV show in Melbourne, Australia. Having snatched an afternoon free from our filming schedule, we ventured into Prahran, one of the city’s hipper enclaves.
Stumbling from our taxi to join the hoards of fashionistas promenading Chapel Street, we swooned at the Victorian architecture, the vernacular of which provided a stunning backdrop to our stolen hours. Later, settled in a cute wee street side café, we tried not to rubber neck as Academy Award-winning actress Cate Blanchett floated by on a cloud of Hollywood glamour. Wow, what a first impression… we so needed a coffee…
We soon learned that “bean juice” in Australia is a religion, and a highly fashionable one at that. The notion of coffee as a way of life springs from the hipster suburbs that have redefined the hallowed brew as a lifestyle choice, a mantra and as a vital component that adds personal pleasure, warmth and luxury to all who’re lured by its intoxicating aroma.
Antipodean coffee bars, we learned from our time down under, tend not to be mass produced global brands. Australia, in fact, such is the love for independent cafes, respect for baristas and the drive for amazing coffee, is one of the few countries in which Starbucks struggled to make an impact.
But, of course we can’t tell the story of coffee without referencing Italy, and the country’s influence on the world’s caffeine appetite; which dates back to the 1940s, when Italian immigrants, taking with them their affection for coffee, scattered across the globe, post-World War II. In Australia, Italian café culture married well with the climate and laid back lifestyle, and, before long coffee drinking was established as a luxury leisure must-have.
Yes indeed, “at home” coffee consumption has come a long way. Transitioning from the humble stove top pots and percolators of the 1970s, to the oh so chi-chi French press plunging that proliferated the 1980s (and beyond) coffee is no longer simply a drink: it’s a way of life. And a seriously hip way of life at that. But which device should you choose?
For those of you who aspire to join the hipster coffee brigade, the Oracle Touch, from Australian manufacturer Breville, is the machine equivalent of having your very own barista in the kitchen. And its operation couldn’t be easier; a fully automated, touch screen simplifies everything into three easy steps: grinding, brewing and milk preparation.
Before long you’ll be adjusting coffee strength, milk “texture” and temperature and then, hey presto, saving that “pattern” under your very own name so that each delicious cup brewed, there-after, is identical. It’s an undeniably clever contraption and a strikingly handsome appliance, to boot. Position one on your countertop and its chunky lines and stain-less-steel cladding will joosh up your kitchen in the same way a shot of espresso would enliven your day.
Another appliance of which we’re particularly fond is The Elektra MicroCasa a Leva, a piston operated beauty available in three gleaming finishes to complement your existing décor. Operating this machine is a wonderfully hands-on experience that, whilst requiring a lil’ practice and commitment to perfect (essential characteristics for a professional at-home barista) is little short of a joy. And seriously: just look at those steam punk lines. It is, quite literally, one of the loveliest objects we’ve ever seen.
Before rhapsodising further, allow us to spool back in time, to a holiday we enjoyed some years past, in a cute wee town on the fringes of Rome. Back then, this coffee-loving duo found itself in a tiny café, flirting with an insanely glamourous woman who bore an uncanny resemblance, and was of a similar vintage, to Sophia Loren.
Boasting a gravity defying terracotta bouffant, exaggerated shoulder pads and a sexy Italian burr, she chattered animatedly (in broken, but compelling English) whilst brewing thick black coffee, for our thirsty delectation, from a spellbinding contraption around which her perfectly manicured hands danced. The memory of that device (and her scarlet fingernails) remains to this day, and the experience served as our first exposure to Elektra, all Belle Époque turn of the century styling and shiny metal finishes.
We tracked down an Elektra in Canada, and, as our assistant unboxed it in studio, we swooned. Seriously: in a world where many other machines have taken on a homogenous appearance, this shiny Italian stallion is next level gorgeous. And OMG, the coffee it delivers… So a little history? Elektra, a third generation family-owned business, was founded in 1947 in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. But worry not – you can find the company’s feted devices, this side of the Atlantic, via respected Canadian merchants Zuccarini (zuccarini.ca).
But an Elektra is about way more than simply hardware. Invest in the Rolls Royce of caffeine delivery, via Zuccarini, and you won’t simply be buying a coffee maker, you’ll be acknowledging and supporting the very people who brought espresso machines to Canada for the first time. In 1954, Giacomo Zuccarini opened his Sidewalk Caffé at Toronto’s Yonge and College, and so much more than coffee drinking began. Around the same time, the company’s distribution of the Gaggia line commenced, which led in turn to their becoming a primary distributor of several similarly exclusive marquees, not least the beautiful Elektra.
From the hefty lever that presses water through the coffee grounds, to the pressure gauge that tells you when the MicroCasa a Leva is ready, the entire experience is wildly rewarding.
It’s fair to report that coffee – and the burgeoning appetite for it – has become a revolution, with an arsenal of associated paraphernalia to satisfy the most style savvy connoisseur. Hey, these days (with minimal effort) you can dress your kitchen to resemble your favourite coffee bar without so much as breaking a sweat. The market place, quite simply, is awash with choice.
From Japanese slow drip contraptions by Hario (hario-canada.ca) that take a staggering seven hours to deliver one cup of cold brew coffee, to French press jugs (in 11 colours) by Le Crueset (lecreuset.ca) and monogrammed espresso cups, it’s now easy to nail a style story that’ll make your décor every bit as individual as your delicious custom beverage. Put simply, it’s all a matter of taste…
IT’S FAIR TO REPORT THAT COFFEE – AND THE BURGEONING APPETITE FOR IT – HAS BECOME A REVOLUTION
The ghost in the machines
From his long-running shop on Davenport, Giacomo Zuccarini was the man who taught Toronto how to make a good cup of coffee
STORY BY MICAH TOUB – BRISTOL | DAVENPORT
OCTOBER 2018 – WWW.WESTENDPHOENIX.COM
In 1954, Giacomo Zuccarini imported the very first espresso machine to Toronto, a city where it would now be hard to find a block without one.
He was 33 years old at the time, an immigrant from Cerqueto Del Tronto, in Italy’s Abruzzo, but his path from the family farm to that landmark achievement was anything but straight.
At 14, Giacomo left his parents to earn a better living for himself and his family. Faking a Roman dialect, he was able to find work at restaurants in the country’s capital. Several years later, while serving his compulsory year of military service, Italy joined the Second World War, and the 18-year-old was sent to a North African port to receive supplies.
When he was captured by the Allies, Giacomo was given his pick of pris- oner-of-war camps, and he chose the Americans’, correctly predicting they would have enough money to feed the captives. In short order, he improved his situation even further by bribing guards to let him out at night to go dancing in Casablanca.
When the war ended, Giacomo shipped off to London – where he was a waiter at the Savoy Hotel – before nally departing for Toronto in 1951, at the age of 30, to seek even greater opportunities. Only he didn’t like it here. He’d come from small, but had caught the bug for big – which Toronto was not – and so, shortly after arriving, he headed to Mexico City.
That foray was also short-lived: Giacomo landed in jail for working illegally, and got kicked out of the country. Back in Toronto, an Italian he’d met in England – a dentist named Pino Riservato – wanted to partner up and import espresso machines made by an Italian named Achille Gaggia.
To promote the titanic appliances, which would have looked like small Cadillacs sitting on the counter, they opened up the Sidewalk Café. The restaurant at Yonge and College boasted the city’s first wood-burning pizza oven and featured a cashier – Giacomo’s then-girlfriend, a Hungarian cont- essa – who sat inside of a welcoming station fashioned as a giant coffee cup.
As splashy and successful as it was, the venture lasted only about a year, when Riservato secretly emptied their bank account and ed. Giacomo was left with the machines, which he continued importing and sold out of his garage. The budding entrepreneur ran that small-scale operation for a number of years before finally setting up in a storefront at Eglinton and Caledonia.
During that time, he also met and married Karin, a German 16 years his junior. Their eldest daughter, Jackie, began working at the shop at the age of 14.
From the late ’70s until her father’s death, Jackie worked alongside Giacomo in the shop – which relocated to the corner of Davenport and Bristol in 1981. She says her father charmed everyone, from eccentric restaurant owners looking to up their coffee game to the early adopters seeking home machines.
She remembers hearing the thick Boston accent of the late legendary Italian restaurateur Michael Carlevale booming from the back room as her father worked, and that he was often accompanied by his longtime partner Joe Bersani. “When they started out in the early ’80s, they were pretty young and they looked up to my dad as kind of a father figure,” she says, “as well as a direct link to the Italian culture of their grandparents.”
Jackie was also there in the mid-’90s, when media magnate Ken Thom- son arrived with his wife, Nora, to drop off their home machine for repair. They were impeccably dressed, she says, but their Gaggia’s steam arm was covered in a hardened lm of milk. “My father immediately admonished them for bringing it in for service so dirty,” she says, noting that Thomson
blamed his wife.
After they left, Jackie enlightened her father as to who they were but he shrugged it off. “He dealt with people from all walks of life, but he treated everyone the same,” she says. When the couple returned the next day, Thom- son told Giacomo that he was “a good man.”
Nobody needed to tell Jackie that. These days, espresso machines have become more complicated and time-intensive to service – and the shop now carries a variety of brands – but back in the early days Giacomo would stop whatever he was doing, including eating his lunch, to repair patrons’ Gaggias while they waited. “It was calming for them to go to the back and talk with him. Some people would just leave their machines, but a lot of people would look forward to spending an hour chatting with my dad.”
Jackie has been running the shop on her own since Giacomo passed away in 2000. She doesn’t fix machines herself, and she’s now handed over sales and training to staff. Still, she enjoys meeting up with café owners she got to know in the days when it was just her and Giacomo – like Balzac’s Diana Olsen, to whom she first sold a machine 23 years ago. If necessary, Zuccarini will also occasionally step in to coach a novice espressophile on how to properly steam milk, or gently explain that their machine’s malfunction is actually an “operator issue.”
All the while, over Jackie’s shoulder hangs a painted portrait of Giacomo, posing with her sister, Janet. Speaking about him 18 years after his death still causes her to choke up, and she takes a few moments to compose herself. “I liked being around him,” she says. “When I was a kid, and he would force me to come in, I would be so mad and wouldn’t talk to him the whole way down to work. But we’d always be friends by the end of the day. I couldn’t stay mad at him.
Prepare to Caffeinate
STORY BY COLIN MCALLISTER & JUSTIN RYAN
MARCH 2019 – SUN HOME & DECOR
Coffee. Aside from our affection for Scotch and old school French wine, it’s fair to report that indulgent caffeinated drinks are our only addiction.
And we’re not talking ‘double doubles’ from Tim Hortons. No sir. We’re talking rich aromatic brews, topped with hedonistic frothy crema, pulled with love (not to mention water pressure and determined steam) from the mechanical jaws of the world’s best coffee makers.
Yes indeed, ‘at home’ coffee consumption has come a long way from ‘kettle on, powder in a cup’ dullsville of days gone by. Transitioning from the humble stove top pots and percolators of the 1970s, to the oh-so chi-chi. French press plunging that proliferated the 1980s (and onwards) coffee is no longer simply a drink – it’s a way of life. And a seriously hip way of life at that. But which device should you choose?
For those who aspire to joining the hipster coffee brigade, the Oracle Touch, from Australian manufacturer Breville, is the machine equivalent of having your very own ‘at home’ barista.
And its operation couldn’t be easier: a fully automated touch screen simplifies everything into three easy steps — grinding, brewing and milk preparation.
You can adjust coffee strength, milk ‘texture’ and temperature to suit personal taste and then save that ‘pattern’ under your name so that every cup brewed, thereafter, is identical. Smart, huh? Position one on your countertop and its chunky lines and stainless steel cladding will joosh up your kitchen in the same way a shot of espresso would enliven your day. For more, visit www.breville.com and prepare to caffeinate.
Next up? The Elektra MicroCasa a Leva, a piston operated beauty available in three gleaming finishes to complement your décor. #is beauty is a wonderfully hands on experience requiring a lil’ practice and commitment — essential characteristics for a professional at-home barista.
And take it from us, it is, quite literally, one of the loveliest objects we’ve ever seen.
Before rhapsodising further, allow us to spool back in time, to a holiday enjoyed some years past, in a cute wee town on the outskirts of Rome. Back then, this coffee-loving duo found itself in a tiny café, flirting with an insanely glamorous woman who bore an uncanny resemblance, and was of a similar vintage, to Sophia Loren. Stunning.
Boasting terracotta toned bouffant, epic shoulder pads and a warm Italian demeanor, she chattered animatedly (in broken, but gorgeously compelling English) whilst brewing coffee from a spellbinding contraption.
The memory of that device remains to this day, and the experience served as our first exposure to Elektra, all Belle Époque turn of the century styling and shiny metal nishes.
And so it came to pass that, for a recent Cityline segment, we tracked one down in Canada and, as our producer unboxed it at the studio, we swooned. In a world where many other machines have taken on a homogenous appearance, this shiny Italian stallion is next level gorgeous. And OMG, the coffee it delivers…
Elektra, a family-owned business, was founded in 1947 in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. But worry not — you can find the company’s feted devices, this side of the Atlantic, via respected Canadian merchants Zuccarini (www.zuccarini.ca)
Invest in an Elektra via Zuccarini and you won’t just be buying a coffee maker, you’ll be supporting the people who brought espresso machines to Canada for the very first time.
Back in 1954, Giacomo Zuccarini opened his Sidewalk Caffé at Toronto’s Yonge and College, and so began Canadian distribution of the Gaggia line and eventually a large number of similarly exclusive marques, not least the beautiful Elektra.
From the dramatic lever that presses water through the coffee grounds, to the pressure gauge that tells you when the machine is ready, the entire experience is wildly rewarding.
Writing this column, we’re actually in Scotland, but, as soon as we’ve consigned our musings to Martin, our editor, we’re off for dinner to our neighbors, a folk singing couple who, coincidently, recently imported their own Elektra, direct from Italy.
So we know how this evening’s repast is scheduled to conclude. There’ll be wine, sure, and we know there’ll be whisky, but it’s the prospect of the rich espresso which we know our pals will brew, that’s really driving our anticipation.
So if you’ll excuse us, an evening of Scottish gastronomy, Gallic fiddle music and fine Italian coffee awaits. More from us — sated — next week…
The Life of a Canadian Icon
STORY BY RICHARD SYRETT
JUNE 2000 – THE GLOBE AND MAIL
dancer, lover of women
– and a good cup of coffee.
Born August 18, 1921,
in Cerqueto Del Tronto, Teramo, Italy.
Died April 8, 2000,
in Toronto, of leukemia, aged 78.
Long before Starbucks or Tim Hortons there was Giacomo Zuccarini. For 46 years, as the exclusive distributor of Gaggia espresso machines in Canada, he made it his life’s work to teach Canadians to make and enjoy a decent cup of coffee.
When he arrived in Toronto in the early 1950s, by way of Mexico City, Casablanca, London and Italy, it was not love at first sight. Too many dirt roads, not enough culture, and the coffee . . . aqua sporca! Dirty water.
So, in 1956, Giacomo opened The Sidewalk Café at College and Yonge as a way of showcasing a new lever-system espresso maker he had imported from Italy. The café boasted the city’s first heated patio, and its first wood-burning pizza oven. The star attraction was Giacomo’s stunning girlfriend, who was said to be Hungarian countess. She greeted patrons perched inside an enormous coffee cup. The place was a success — until one night his partner skipped town with all the money, leaving a devastated Giacomo no choice but to close down. Stung by this betrayal, he vowed his children would learn self-reliance.
When Giacomo married in 1964 he hoped for a son. Instead his beloved wife Karin gave him three daughters. While he tried to hide his disappointment, he was never really sure how to relate to the girls and treated them like boys. “No kid-glove treatment for the Zuccarini girls. We were only 11 and 12, and Pa had us fixing and lifting these heavy espresso machines,” recalled his eldest daughter Jackie. “He’d say, ‘C’mon, you can do it, you’re strong.’ ”
Giacomo’s own youth was the stuff of good Italian opera. Had his mother married according to her uncle’s wishes she would have inherited a fortune. Instead, she married for love and lost everything. The family background was one of wealth and privilege, yet Giacomo grew up poor with little formal education. A disputed will led to a court order that split their villa in half by means of an interior brick wall. The servants’ quarters housed pigs.
Giacomo left the farm in the late 1930s and found work waiting tables at London’s fabled Savoy Hotel. No sooner had he acquired the coveted job of maître d’ when the Second World War erupted. He was drafted into the Italian army and landed in the North African heat in a ridiculous wool uniform. The Allied Forces overran North Africa and he became an American P.O.W., yet he maintained his zest for life: he’d bribe the guards with cigarettes, steal out of camp and disappear into Casablanca to dance until dawn.
Throughout his life, he boasted that he never missed a day of work — even after being diagnosed with leukemia in 1994. Last Christmas, despite feeling terrible, he forced his failing body into the shop. Jackie arrived to find her father huddled over his espresso machines and gasping for air. “It’s that damn fagioli your mother made, it gave me indigestion!” he told her. Doctors later found that Giacomo had suffered two heart attacks.
Every day in hundreds of cafés, bars and restaurants across Canada, coffee drinkers unknowingly pay tribute to Giacomo Zuccarini simply by enjoying a cup of espresso. But a life cannot be measured out in coffee spoons. Rather, we can count a thousand dance partners from Rome to Mexico, tens of thousands of satisfied customers and innumerable souls warmed by his generous smile.
Richard Syrett is a producer and broadcaster living in Toronto. He makes a terrible cup of coffee.
8 places to buy espresso machines in Toronto
STORY BY ALEXANDRA GRIGORESCU
MAY 2012 – WWW.BLOGTO.COM
Espresso machines in Toronto are by no means a niche industry; we’re a fast moving city fueled in large part by our gargantuan consumption of caffeine.
But, if you’re anything like me, you’re particular about your coffee. Not just any run-of-the-mill (albeit economical) Black and Decker drip model will do; rather, it needs to produce a quality shot of espresso and be visually stimulating, which often requires going beyond your neighbourhood Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart.
Zuccarini not only offers imported Italian espresso machines, but also bears a long history of serving Toronto caffeine addicts since 1954. In fact, they claim to have begun the influx of espresso machines into Canada – with a Gaggia, no less – and have continued to do so through a family-run operation. Their stock has expanded to include Elektra, Nuova Simonelli, Izzo, Bezerra, Pasquini, and Victoria Arduino, and it all comes with an in-house warranty guarantee.
The Jewels of Food for People with Taste
Before there was a gourmet coffee shop on every corner, Giacomo Zuccarini was introducing Torontonians to the sublime pleasures of proper Italian espresso, importing Canada’s very first espresso machine an incredible 50 years ago. With that groundbreaking event, the famous Gaggia line was introduced to Canada, and Zuccarini Importing Company Ltd. was born.
Today, Giacomo has passed on, but his business thrives in the hands of his eldest daughter. Jackie Zuccarini heads up Canada’s premier importing company of fine Italian espresso equipment for home, office and commercial use.
For those of you true coffee lovers who couldn’t imagine starting your day or ending a meal without a shot of espresso or frothy cappuccino, Jackie suggests becoming your own “Barista” (skilled espresso machine operator) and investing in a quality espresso/cappuccino machine, and getting some free Home Barista training.