HARD work and a passion for fresh ingredients have allowed a couple to achieve their dream of bringing a taste of Italy to the centre of Aldershot.
Started by 36-year-old Jakub Czarnecki almost a decade ago, Caffe Macchiato in Union Street is run with his fiancée Emilia Nowak, 32.
Although the couple are Polish, the choice of Italian cuisine was a result of Mr Czarnecki’s time working in an Italian restaurant in London previously.
Eager to start his own business, he drove around the capital’s neighbouring counties and settled on Aldershot as the place to start his venture.
Miss Nowak said they had faced challenges establishing the business in the town, but that they had stuck to their principles of only serving fresh ingredients, some of it imported from Italy, in their meals.
“All our food is freshly prepared – we don’t use microwaves or anything like that,” she said. “If you order a sandwich with roast chicken, you will get fresh chicken not out of a packet.
“It’s all about innovating and making things better and better. We always listen to our customers. We want to put things in that they will enjoy because food is about pleasure.”
The café, which doubles up as a restaurant in the early evening, employs four people in addition to the two owners, including three chefs.
Miss Nowak’s oil paintings add a splash of colour and character to the walls, and free Wifi is available for customers.
It has a large menu featuring pizzas, pastas and puddings – almost all of which are priced at less than £10. Breakfasts are also available.
Signature dishes include Linguine Alla Gamberi – pasta with tiger prawns, spring onions, black olives, fresh tomatoes, courgette, garlic and a pinch of fresh chilli.
All paninis are served with fresh salad, and a range of homemade dressings are available.
All of this can be washed down with anything from a milkshake to a dram of whiskey.
Also available, either to buy in bags or drink by the cup, is freshly roasted coffee, made by Mr Czarnecki’s brother Piotr. After working at the café for several years, Piotr now runs the nearby Vero waffles and gelato shop.
It is here where he roasts green coffee beans, imported from countries such as Columbia or Brazil, ready to serve.
He serves 19 flavours of gelato – traditional Italian ice cream – and said he hoped better weather in the summer would see it take off after months of rain followed the opening of the shop in November.
Once every month, usually on the first Friday of each month, Caffe Macchiato hosts an evening of live music to accompany a set menu with a choice of three courses for £12.95 per person.
Miss Nowak said there were plans to add to the options for customers, such as a delicatessen counter selling fresh Parma ham and salami. These will also be used in a new antipasti menu.
Caffe Macchiato has also been able to take advantage of new visitors to Aldershot as a result of Westgate opening. Despite the new multi-million-pound complex bringing competition with new restaurants, she said these were part of larger chains meaning Caffe Macchiato remained unique.
“It’s good because towns are changing,” she said. “Westgate is bringing people in from out of town.”
She added: “Business should be better but it's alright. Some customers have been coming here every day for nine years, but we want to get more and more.
“I think what we do we should be proud of. What I say is we put the heart into it. You’ve got music, you’ve got food and everything is good, so what more could you want?”