Interview with Marco Nencini, owner of Bar Piazzetta – San Gimignano
Bar Piazzetta is a historic place founded in 1927 in San Gimignano. Owned by the Malcuori family since 1974, it has been managed by their nephew Marco Nencini (with the help of his sisters Martina and Monica and his partner Sara) since 2004.
Thereafter, a path of renewal and continuous development has begun: in 2009 they opened an artisan ice cream parlour; in 2014 thanks to the meeting with Le Piantagioni and after a good training, they completely changed their coffee selection; in 2016 they renovated the whole place and added a bistro.
A large location with 150 seats and a staff of 15 is not easy to manage, even less if quality is the watchword.
We asked Marco a few questions to know better his reality.
1) San Gimignano is a beautiful Tuscan village; I imagine that your customers are mainly
tourists. Can you convey the values of quality and craftsmanship to such a “hit and run
San Gimignano is a heavily touristic area and we are among the few businesses to also work with residents.
Having said that, the proportions of our clientele remain 80% tourists
(mostly foreigners) and 20% local people. We try to convey the values we believe in to anyone who enters our restaurant, through the furniture, the display of our professional equipment and the products that we use. Obviously, the customers are wide-ranging but they mostly become passionate and come back, exactly because they understand that quality makes the difference.
2) How do the tourists and the locals’ choices differ, if they do?
We only use traditional local products that reflect our food culture.
Tourists come to Italy in search of our heritage, to taste products that they cannot find elsewhere. At the bar, the most distinctive products are espresso, cappuccino and croissants filled at the moment with organic jams. These products are obviously the same an Italian customer looks for in a bar.
Differently from Italians, tourists are more likely to ask for an American coffee, in which case we have the possibility to serve our excellent filter coffees.
3) How do you encourage extractions other than espresso and promote your Specialty
In 2014 I started a personal training on coffee, because I realised I needed a deeper knowledge of the main ingredient on which my daily work depends. And so, I fell in love with the world of the Specialty Coffees! These exceptional products need to be enhanced by a perfect preparation. It is not easy to recommend them nor are they highly requested: the average customer usually asks for a fair coffee, but they are hardly ever keen on experimenting, due to a lack of interest or of knowledge. In my coffeeshop I use your 85/15 blend because I think it very much represents the symbol of Italian espresso: a good cream, a balanced body, a gentle acidity.
On the other hand, my personal passion and my desire to whet someone’s curiosity make me also recommend the Dambi Uddo.
The extraordinarily fruity, sweet flavour of this Ethiopian coffee and its scent of red fruits would conquer whoever tries it.
I use it for the cold brew and I add it to cocktails in mixology. And here we come to the extraction methods alternative to espresso: the cold drip is great with foreigners and we serve it straight, on the rocks, in a coffee gin and tonic or with single cream in the ice cream.
4) The pandemic has reduced the economic growth and prosperity of businesses. Do you agree that focussing on quality and craftsmanship could help overcome the crisis?
This has been exactly my idea since the very beginning: at 12 I was a waiter in my grandfather’s restaurant, I have worked abroad for a while, but the thing that made me fall in love with my job was precisely the search for quality.
Quality means also the courage to increase the prices to match the standard of the products.
I have been serving espresso for € 1.20 for three years and I do not regret my choice.
Quality has a price. The coffee quality path begins with the correct processing of the green beans on the farm and ends with our job: the barista expertise, the maintenance of the professional equipment and the staff training.
Quality is our ultimate mission: we do not use semi-finished ingredients and all the products we serve are made from scratch, like our homemade pasta.
Because of the pandemic, I had to adjust the menu and the price list
but our quality is unchanged, on the contrary it has increased because I believe that doing a good job is the only way to go ahead.
5) At Bar Piazzetta coffee or cappuccino are always perfectly made. Tell us about the importance of staff training.
As I told you before, in 2014 I began my personal training, starting from latte art all the way to the visit to a coffee farm, where I realised what a sacrifice there is behind our daily cup of coffee.
So, I decided that also my personnel should deepen the subject of their daily work, in order to enhance and respect it.
That’s why I started training all the staff.
It is absolutely necessary, although it’s expensive and time consuming. Two years ago, the business had a 10-day stop during which the guys took part to an intensive training session.
The result is a united team of passionate, motivated and satisfied people. The staff is precious and is not just the low man on the totem pole. Finding good collaborators is extremely difficult and once you find them, they deserve to be rewarded and encouraged.
I constantly promote training.
This year we had a three-day tasting session with you from Le Piantagioni.
I had scheduled other courses, but Covid-19 has reduced both the budget and the expectations.
Maybe next year!
6) Which coffee of ours do you like best and why did you choose it?
Being a coffee lover, the choice is hard. I love all the estate coffees: they are top quality.
I use them in preparations such as ice cream because they add something special and different!
As I mentioned before, an espresso with Dambi Uddo is not something we can recommend to any customer. It is mainly approached by educated palates, but those who drink it are usually enthusiastic and finally buy the beans to take home!
Then we have the Italian coffee par excellence, mine and your flagship: the 85/15 blend.
There is no point in waging war on Robusta (if a good one): the blend is perfect, it is fully satisfying in spite of its simplicity, its balance delights everyone.
It is perfect for cappuccino and it is the key to introducing newbies into the world of Specialty Coffees.
More and more people exclaim: “This coffee is really good!”. Which means that we are on track.
Thanks to the combination of a quality coffee, an amazing coffee roaster and supplier, great baristas and excellent equipment we are ready to enchant and pamper our customers.
Let’s enjoy a good coffee, then!