Piccolo was the brain child of me as a teenager, working in an Italian style coffee bar in the UK. Loving the vibe, embracing the art of coffee making and inspired by Italian colleagues, I became obsessively attracted to learning Italian, visiting the country and starting my own place. With the dream came the first name; the Pumping duck – just because it sounded cool, very elegant indeed.
Being a sensible guy I started studying first, back in New Zealand. After graduating and briefly consulting a map, the original plan was to open my café, the Pumping Duck, near Bari next to a beach. I’d host daily barbeques and beach-football games – easy peasy. With all my worldly belongings and a pocket full of Euros I arrived in Italy. Feeling somewhat depressed arriving Milano Centrale in the height of winter I headed to Genova. It was not yet Bari, but at least I found a beach and a job.
While working in Italy and enjoying la dolce vita, I learnt the secrets of good food. It was in between experimenting in my own kitchen and going out for dinner that I discovered aperitivo. After some years of living la dolce vita and spending more than I earned, I realised my dream of starting a café in Italy was somewhat harder to achieve. My meagre salary wouldn't get me where I needed.
After a Dutch girl accidentally packed my heart and took it to Amsterdam, I decided to follow. One look at the bars in Scheveningen and my enthusiasm for a beach café vanished. Dream no. 2 was a coffee bus - a Citroen HY Van to be exact. Touring the festivals and selling coffee in the sun; very appealing and somewhat more affordable than a fullfledged café. However, after some time in Holland, considering the cold Dutch winters and seemingly short summers I decided that being exposed to the elements was a bad idea. I started a plan for a business without wheels. I had to get serious, build up some proper savings and giving a concrete shape to my still dream ideas.
This was the fun period of testing recipes, travelling for inspiration and tasting the competition. It included a barista course back in Italy, visiting China’s biggest tea market in Guangzhou, a tour of sustainable coffee farming in Costa Rica, searching for the perfect flat white in New Zealand, and hosting many food and drink tasting nights with friends in Holland.
From Pumping Duck to Caffè Ristretto, the name was now tastefully changed to Caffè con Te – a clever Italian play on words. When a friend however mistook it for Café Kontje, it had to be changed. Finally Piccolo was to be the name. With a business plan in one hand and savings in the other I started looking for a location. When I accidentally stumbled across the “Te Huur” sign in the Tollensstraat I knew that was it. With Anne & Max next door serving every coffee under the sun, I had to change my ideas yet another time, away from being a coffee bar.
Things fell into place when we were in Italy for one last inspirational tour. The best part of the trip was a small aperitivo bar hidden in a side street of Venice. Sipping our aperol-spritz, eating mini-panini and listening to Italians chatting away, we decided Piccolo should be an aperitivo bar. Piccolo: small bites and small moments.
I sealed the deal on the Tollensstraat, got the key in March and started building almost immediately. 3 busy and expensive months later, thanks to incredible help from family and friends we were ready to open the doors to Piccolo; first to former colleagues, then to friends and finally to you.
One year in, we've changed our food menu about 50 times, revamped the bar, extended the kitchen and grown the team. Customers turned into friends and Piccolo has become a neighbourhood hangout. We're proudest when recreating the Piccolo moment. When lunch turns into aperitivo into dinner and ends with caffè affogato on the terrace. When people warm up over spiced hot chocolate while playing games, or when kids play in the square while parents catch up over a bottle of wine. Piccolo bites for piccolo moments. Grazie a tutti per un primo anno meraviglioso. Tot morgen!