Meet Massimo, the founder and face behind Caffe Italiano
A mainstay at homeshows across the country, Massimo is the face behind Caffe Italiano. We talked to him about coming to New Zealand and how he came to sell premium coffee machines and accessories at our shows. Massimo came to New Zealand in 1986 for the noblest of reasons – he followed a blonde Kiwi girl. “I came for a quick visit, and I never left.” “I got off the plane in Auckland to a Maori greeting (powhiri) and people touching noses,” he says. “I thought it was a grand version of being welcomed to Hawaii with a lei, but after a while I realised it wasn’t typical and it wasn’t for me at all – the Thompson Twins and Rod Stewart had been in first class!” Coming from Rome to New Zealand in the late eighties was a huge shock. “Lawyers and accountants were wearing shorts with socks and sandals, and short sleeved shirts complete with a tie. The bread was Tip Top, the pasta was Diamond, the coffee was Nescafe – there was no choice, no food culture.”
Massimo rang his mother and asked her to send him a coffee machine and coffee beans. His worried mother, assuming her son had moved to a backward third world country since he couldn’t access the most basic needs like coffee, also kindly included a toothbrush and toothpaste.
Originally a graphic and product designer, Massimo settled down in Wellington with the girl he’d followed and started a family. “The first week I lived in Wellington, I thought it was wonderful – sunny and warm. It was probably the best week of weather they’d had for decades, and I never saw it like that again! Every summer, we’d ask ourselves why we were still there. There was no outdoor living, and my pizza oven – a big part of my Italian culture – was hardly used.”
Massimo talks of his wood-fired pizza oven like a proud father with a particularly accomplished child. He’s also always been passionate about good coffee, and at the turn of the millennium a friend from Rome who had been in the coffee industry for many years suggested introducing Italian coffee culture to Kiwis. “Quality coffee had just come to New Zealand in the mid nineties,” says Massimo. “It was just starting to take off – I imported a few machines and it was so successful that coffee became my new profession.”
Selling at home and food shows all over the country, Massimo was racking up over 50,000 kilometers in travel a year from Wellington. “Three years ago we finally moved to Tauranga. I tried Auckland for a bit, but when we settled in the Bay of Plenty I immediately felt at home. I had been coming here for years to do shows and had always loved it. The climate reminds me of my Mediterranean roots and the way of life is wonderful.”
Now established in Te Puna, he and his family grow a lot of their own fruit and vegetables, Massimo has halved the amount of travel he does for work, and of course – very importantly – the pizza oven is in use all year round.