The Diary: Free coffee? That’s worth drinking to

Matteo Bragazzi who has owned his coffe shop on Abbeydale Road for 10 years.
Matteo Bragazzi who has owned his coffe shop on Abbeydale Road for 10 years.
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Warning: do not ask Matteo Bragazzi if he’s passionate about coffee.

“What a stupid question,” he spits. “Completely stupid. I’m not even answering. Good coffee is everything.”

Ah. That’ll be a yes then.

And that passion perhaps explains why the Italian deli this 33-year-old opened in Abbeydale Road in 2003 is thriving as, this week, it celebrates its 10th anniversary.

Now, Bragazzis – a rustic, bustling place so authentically Mediterranean one half expects to walk outside and be hit by an erratically-ridden scooter – will toast the landmark date by giving away free coffee all Saturday.

Not bad, hey? Not as long as you don’t idly wonder if Matteo’s passionate about his latte.

“Ten years,” ponders the second-generation Italian when The Diary pops in. “How did that happen? We’ve never had a plan. We didn’t even have a website until last year. We just do coffee and food. Maybe we got lucky.”

He’s being modest.

Bragazzis – you can’t miss it; there’s a 1930s Roman delivery bike parked permanently outside – is widely credited with kick-starting the current pavement cafe culture in Abbeydale Road. It’s won several gongs from the prestigious Café Society. And it arguably helped prove family-run coffee shops could work in Sheffield at a time when Starbucks would have opened a unit in your garden shed if they could have done.

“It’s not been easy,” admits the father-of-two of Nether Edge, who manages the place with wife Deb. “But I think we set up at the right time, just as people were moving away from chains. There was a gap in the market. We felt we could fill it.”

Perhaps it was in his blood. Matteo comes from Italian restaurateur stock. His dad Giovanni moved to England in the Fifties and worked at London’s Café Royal, while his uncles ran their own places.

Matteo himself opened his deli after coming to Sheffield to, design?

“At some point after graduating I just decided I wanted to do this,” he explains. He did it so well that in 2004, a year after opening, he expanded into the unit next door. A second separate restaurant he opened shut within a year or so. But mainly it’s been all success.

Now he’s looking forward to the next 10 years. Sort of.

What’s he got planned? “My wife said you’d ask that,” he puzzles. “And we don’t know. We still don’t plan to this day. We still take it one step at a time.”