‘A slice of Italy’: Café serves authentic Italian culture in a new bistro | Business | Instant News

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – The aroma of pepperoni and freshly baked focaccia bread greets you as you enter. You are quickly greeted by a Vespa, Italy’s iconic motor scooter, on display near the front door.

Mediterranean folk music flows onto the outdoor terrace. The portraits and paintings hanging within them conjure up images of Venetian canals, Roman courtyards, Bologna’s cobbled back alleys and picturesque tenements in Tuscany.

If the walls are inside Bonus Coffee can speak, they’ll sing Italian ballads.

The family-owned cafe became the newest addition to the Watercrest Village Alpharetta shopping square along North Main Street in June. This restaurant is rich in traditional Italian heritage.

That is the design.

Basset Elarbi is the guiding force of Café de Bono. The menu includes soups, salads, pastries, Italian coffee, espresso and snacks such as panini, piadini, pizza, Italian croissants, authentic mozzarella and parmesan. From food to music and decorations, Elarbi aims to create an atmosphere of an authentic Italian experience.

“I wanted to bring an Italian feel to this place, so it will be unique in that,” he said. “People can come here to experience that culture. We’re trying to bring a slice of Italy to Atlanta. So I want people to be able to enjoy it without having to travel. “

Elarbi is a native of Tripoli, Libya, a beautiful seaside town just across the Mediterranean from Sicily.

Italy colonized Libya in 1911 and staked the North African nation until 1947. Elarbi was raised in the capital at a time when the nation was counting against his reclaimed independence. During the colonization period and even after World War II, Italians continued to immigrate to their homeland en masse. Elarbi immersed himself in Italian culture as a child and says he became fascinated with the architecture, fashion, flowery language and elegance of his neighboring country.

“It grows with you and becomes a part of who you are,” said Elarbi. “Italian culture is truly an interesting culture. Language, music, taste, food, design taste. Everything. They call it ‘Dulce vida’ in Italian: it means ‘sweet life’.

This is exactly a reflection of that, he added. “I wouldn’t be able to design something like this if I didn’t grow up there.”

That sentiment is evident even in the moniker Cafe de Bono. Elarbi named the restaurant after Galleria de Bono, a historic Tripoli shopping center built as a small version of Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II upscale mall.

“I want Italian-Libyan connections because I am Tripolitanian, Libyan,” he said. “So I said what I could do to bring the two of them together.”

Elarbi emigrated to the United States and spent several decades living in Texas. But after longtime Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi was killed and his regime overthrown in 2011, Elarbi and his family returned home to help rebuild their homeland. They spent seven years in Libya, but increased instability and violence forced the family to flee and return to US soil.

They moved to North Atlanta in 2018, and Elarbi decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of opening a restaurant. It was a dream born of his years working in luxury restaurants abroad as a student.

But the time for her decision to pursue her dream presents unexpected obstacles. Construction of Café de Bono started earlier this year before COVID-19 was forced to close, crippling restaurants across the country. By the time the pandemic hit, they had invested too much time and money into the business to turn around.

The Italian cafe opens on June 5, when the second wave of Georgian transmission begins.

By the time Governor Brian Kemp lifted statewide restrictions and allowed the restaurant to fully reopen, several of the surrounding shops in the Watercrest Village square had closed. Apart from that, customers are also hesitant to eat at foreign cafes due to the pandemic.

Both affect business. Elarbi said his family was forced to spend their rainy day contingencies in the first few months just to stay afloat.

“Before the corona virus, we had a good reputation,” Elarbi said of the alun-alun. “I used to talk to people during construction. The shopping center itself is a good source of business. But some shops are closed. “

But customers have started to pay attention and arrive more regularly. Elarbi is considering adding to the breakfast menu and increasing working hours to attract more business. Overall, the goal remains the same: to offer the area a unique blend of Italian culture.

“This place has its own character,” he said. “It’s a classic Italian touch, with a modern twist.”


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