Luigi Mariani wanted to add even more traditional flavours to the mosaic of Windsor’s Little Italy when he started brewing coffee from his corner cafe on Erie Street last summer.
He and his family visited the old country several times sourcing just the right ingredients, finding the finest equipment and learning the intricate process that defines a classic Italian coffee.
Mariani slid open the doors to Goccia Cafe in June 2019, just a couple of days before the Carrousel of Nations festival, when thousands of visitors flock to the Via Italia neighbourhood to devour the taste, smell and sound of Italian culture.
Seeing people line up for coffee, snacks and gelato reminded Mariani of why he wanted to be part of the area’s ongoing revitalization.
“I want to see it thrive again,” he said. “I want to be part of it. I wanted to help renovate the buildings and I wanted to open what an Italian bar would be like (back home).”
The high-energy entrepreneur has built many businesses over the years and the family-run Goccia is no different. Luigi has always worked alongside his wife Nancy and their children, Shawn and Cynthia.
Together, they all still operate a real estate company, which was the main family business. But they’ve also owned start-ups that had them painting sports fields or pouring cement.
“Most of the ideas come from the real estate side,” Shawn said of his father’s creativity and ambition. “He figured, if we need the service for our properties, then other people must need it too.”
The cafe is already a popular lunch spot with a small but tasty menu that includes a selection of mouth-watering paninis, as well as charcuterie plates, meatball sliders and pizza. Of course, there are also a wide range of baked treats, like oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, biscotti or mini crostata.
Every item, of course, comes from recipes handed down through the family for generations. Nancy was nine years old when she started cooking alongside her mother, learning recipes for bread, pasta, pizza, tomato sauce and gnocchi—all handmade. There was never a question in her mind, the cafe menu would be filled with her family’s traditions.
“I sort of just instinctively knew what would work here,” she said. “The Paninis are quite popular. They’re a little different than what you would expect anywhere in Windsor.”
In addition to the traditional espressos and cappuccinos, there are also the speciality coffees. Turn a regular espresso a little boozy with the Affogato Martini or put a modern twist on your drink with a Coffee Old Fashion, a caffeinated version of the popular cocktail.
Via Italia Revival
Goccia Cafe is one of several new businesses to emerge along Erie Street in the past year. Places like Shred Shop fitness, Medica Pharmacy, HomeSlice Pizzeria, Mandaloun Lebanese restaurant and Verna-Q-lar Cocktail Lounge add much more vibrancy to the area, according to Filip Rocca, president of the Via Italia Business Improvement Association.
“Erie Street is starting to see a bit of a revival and it’s thanks to people like Luigi and his family who believe in the neighbourhood and want to see it thrive,” he said.
The Marianis are now proud members of one of Windsor’s oldest commercial centres. It’s an honour they take seriously.
“I’ve always enjoyed the community. I didn’t grow up in the neighbourhood, but I’ve been around a lot over the years,” Luigi explained.
Having immigrant parents who arrived in Windsor in the 1940s, Nancy also spent a lot of time in the Via Italia neighbourhood.
“This has always been a vibrant community of Italians who sacrificed and worked hard,” she said. “There’s a heritage here to be maintained and that’s why we’re here.”