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Urbino Project 2015 | May 22, 2024

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Kitchen-in-a-Closet - Urbino Project 2015

Thomas Fitzpatrick
A lot of delicious food comes with your wine or beer at Happy Hour.

URBINO, Italy – Luigi “Gigi” Andreoli rushes back and forth between his small café and the outside areas it caters to. On the inside, Gigi and other employees squeeze past one another in the cramped space along the bar counter and the even tighter space behind the bar, each holding food or wine or both.

This is the Raffaello Caffè during “aperitivo” on any given day. Aperitivo is the Italian version happy hour. It typically starts after work and continues until dinner, which Italians have after 8 p.m. During aperitivo, cafés will serve free food with an order of alcoholic drinks. This is in addition to the chips and peanuts typical of American bars and here.

Gigi serves local wines in his shop, and his customers ask for them regularly.

Gigi serves local wines in his shop, and his customers ask for them regularly.

The distinguishing feature of aperitivo is the hand-made, delicious appetizers given to café customers so they won’t drink on an empty stomach.

The employees will bring out a plate with the drink order piled high with foods varying in color and flavor. For example there are a variety of “crostini,” little toasts with tasty meats, cheese or garden vegetables on top. 

Crostini is one of the fan favorites at Raffaello Caffè. A common crostini is the bruschetta, a slice of bread grilled with olive oil and garlic and topped usually with diced tomato and other local foods.

Andreoli will cut and lightly toast pieces of bread after brushing the bread with olive oil. After the bread has been toasted to perfection, Andreoli will decide what the topping will be for each slice. This is where colors start to vary. He has a collection lying in front of him: Yellow, green, blue, and red peppers diced and sorted, prosciutto (thinly dry-cured ham), mayonnaise, tomatoes, mustard and an assortment of cheeses.

Andreoli prepares the food in a “kitchen” the size of the average American closet. Inside he has everything a normal kitchen would contain – refrigerator, oven, sink, cutting board, and a few cooking implements. He also has all his food stored and stacked high on the shelves. Like the steward in a ship’s galley, he is somehow able to cook and prepare all the food for aperitivo in there. He does it alone, of course, since no one else can fit with him.

A regular customer, Anthea Mirra, says Raffaello Caffè is famous for its great aperitivi and snacks. 

Mirra has been coming to Raffaello Caffè for a few years. She says its employees are passionate in their work. She prefers small cafés because of the service. Large cafés will also partake in supplying prepared food for aperitivo, but not like Raffaello Caffè. Large cafés are big and impersonal.

Raffaello Caffè, at the beginning of the steep little street where the painter Raphael lived, is more intimate and less dispersed, says her friend Tonina Pasquini. “There is a friendship relationship from 40 years.” 

Enjoying a laugh with his regular customers makes Gigi’s job all the better.

Enjoying a laugh with his regular customers makes Gigi’s job all the better.

Pasquini is one of the many customers who start their day off with Raffaello Caffè. She goes there nearly every day, sometimes twice a day, for breakfast and then aperitivo with a few friends. She enjoys the staff because of their professional and passionate service.

Giovanni Garbugli, co-owner of Sugar Café just outside the ancient walls of Urbino, prefers working in small cafés like his. He says he is able to become friends with his clients and know their ordering habits while developing a relationship deeper than the employee-customer relations and completely change the dynamic of it.

Serving new and exciting combinations of food is common for Garbugli. He will serve plates of food to customers all day long, not just during aperitivo. He knows what his customers will enjoy and be willing to try.

Andreoli, at Raffaello Caffè, can often be seen experimenting with foods for his regular customers. With every season comes new ingredients, so he will provide what he can and add his own pride and passion to it just like he does to his service.

After a busy aperitivo, Andreoli and the other staff at Raffaello Caffè will close their café for the night. Cleaning up the leftover plates and food, preparing for the next morning, Andreoli will lock up the outside patio chairs and tables, stacking them on top of each other then locking them to the railing.

Walking back to the main café, he will wipe down the counters of the bar while other staff clean the cappuccino maker and close the blinds. Andreoli is the last to lock the door and the gate, ready to walk home to his family.


See the video “T-Shirt Culture in Urbino” produced by Thomas Fitzpatrick & Stephanie Smith.