Italian coffee, French pastries, Calcutta marble, Colombian handmade wares — Palermo Urban Coffee Bar is the physical travel journal of owners Aden and Fiorella Rossinni. The slice of Sicily opened on Highgate Hill’s Gladstone Road in May this year, inviting locals to share an eclectic mix of the pair’s favourite things. “The name is Palermo,” says Aden, articulating the café’s namesake in an authentic Italian accent. “It’s the capital of Sicily — it’s an amazing place.”
The pair plan to do things the Sicilian way — that is, the slow, “right” way. An infinite amount of care has been taken in every decision inside the hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. From the height of the bar stools, to each title in the book nook, and especially in choosing the coffee blend. “The coffee is from Sicily. They still do things in an old world way. They’re not in a hurry to get their product out.”
Aden is an author he says, despite being dyslexic, and is also “a tryer … I wrote my first little book in primary school, and it was called The Train That Never Stops — it’s funny because that’s me,” he chuckles. Raised on a dairy farm in Gippsland until age seven, Aden has always been a moving force. Settling in Brisbane after hopping between cities and states, having lived in five countries, Aden’s Italian heritage has informed his present. “My Italian family were bakers, farmers and workers. They had orange and lemon farms, and a bakery. It’s weird that I know how to bake and make pastries and I’ve only learnt myself — it’s innate.”
Moving past the bright reclaimed Queenslander wainscot below the espresso machine and the intricate local art displayed high on each wall, the back corner of Palermo comes alive. Vibrant activewear, leather bags and pressed floral jewellery hang from hooks and shelves, the passion project of Aden’s Colombian wife Fiorella. “They’re from small co-ops created and run by women. I’m trying to empower and support women’s business in a man’s world,” says Fiorella. Amadora Designed Concepts is her connection to home. “I came here, and I became Australian — the things that you do, the way of life — then I felt a hole. I needed a bridge with my past. This is the child from that feeling. In Colombia, you may not have many things, but the few things you have make you feel special. You cherish them in a culture where everything is disposable.”
Palermo thinks local, using Genki, 4Real and Maleny milk, and paper coffee cups from Brisbane Cups, caring more about quality than about financial outlay. But in Aden’s eyes, everywhere is local. “When you think of it on a global scale, everywhere is local. I think it’s more important to help out individuals than big corporations.”
When asked what sets Palermo apart, Aden extends his hands above his head, in a gesture as large as his enthusiasm. “We’re friendly! And not pretentious. We just want it to be a neighbourhood place where you come in and you feel comfortable.” Because Aden and Fiorella are not interested in becoming another drip in Brisbane’s ever expanding batch brews.