Simone Arnetoli & Laura Tosotti
by the Bellesi Masters
From breakfast to dinnertime, Tuscan tradition, creativity and the pursuit of satisfaction. On the palate, but also from customers and employees. You can feel the familiar and fun atmosphere of home in the cafes.
A family of cafes that are closed for just a few hours a day. The doors are open from breakfast to dinnertime. Although customers walk on marble floors, the spaces offer an understated style that combines classic and modern, with a hint of vintage and shabby chic. Arcade video games sprouting up between the long tables, branches of lights, airy ceilings and work areas always in full view. Tuscan tradition, creativity and the pursuit of satisfaction. At Caffè Neri, there is an atmosphere of home. “This is the feeling we wanted to create when crossing the threshold into our cafe,” explains Simone Bellesi, owner of the group, “we have always been a big family in the management of the place, and even now that we have 75 employees I would like the intimate and fun atmosphere to remain the same.”
The story of Caffè Neri began with Simone’s father, Giampaolo, born in 1934. In the immediate post-war period Giampaolo found work in a pastry shop as a washer of baking trays. That was the first, inevitable step. Then, with passion and dedication, he learned the fascinating craft of the pastry chef. In 1968, he bravely decided to open his first shop in the centre of Florence, the “Pasticceria Bellesi.”
“That’s where the family business started, and that’s where our wonderful, floury story began,” says Simone. The company is now over 50 years old: in 2018 it received a plaque of recognition from the Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella. “I continued the journey by giving the new place the name of my son, Neri. I hope that he too - he is now just under 20 years old - will want to continue this beautiful family story. Today we have 4 shops in Sesto Fiorentino, Calenzano and one in front of Ponte Vecchio in Florence and we are still carrying on my father’s tradition, adding a touch of modernity.”
Caffè Neri’s philosophy has always been to focus on the product and to enhance it through excellent ingredients. “To do this job well takes passion and an impulse to never settle for less. We are taking our pastry making forward with the use of ancient grains,” comments Simone Bellesi, “with a more controlled production chain.”
In addition to shops, since 2003 Caffè Neri has also been catering for events and receptions to complete an all-round food offer, beyond the excellence in the art of pastry making.
“We are particularly connected to our region and that’s why I try to collaborate with local companies.” Among the various and prestigious partnerships is one with A.C.F. Fiorentina, Porsche Arezzo and Florence, BMW Brandini, and Toscana Aeroporti Medicei. Caffè Neri has received 4 awards in the last 7 years for the best schiacciata alla Fiorentina. “It is really a great point of pride for us to have earned this title for one of the basics of simple Florentine cuisine.”
Seven years ago, they met with Aba Arredamenti. One of the stores needed to be restyled. “Aba’s people are really good at finding new solutions for existing spaces.” Caffè Neri needed to improve in freshness and align the atmosphere with the brand message. “We wanted the place to look like a big indoor market,” says Simone.
“We wanted the place to look like a big indoor market. Aba’s people are really good at finding new solutions for existing spaces.”
“Massimo Giaccherini immediately understood my idea. There was a great understanding from the beginning of how to rework the large spaces that we have. While I was explaining what I wanted our restaurant to become, Massimo was drawing it on paper. There are few nowadays who manage to do that.” The basic furnishings and the chromatic details reflect the “street” flavour, where each customer can choose a corner to try different foods, just like at a market place.
Despite his many achievements, Simone still has a few dreams up his sleeve. One in particular. “I hope one day to take Massimo by the arm, bring him to some foreign city and imagine a concept store with him, featuring the entire culinary traditions of Florence, Tuscany and Italy. I know it sounds like something we’ve already heard, but I can assure you that Caffè Neri will be something totally revolutionary abroad.”
“I hope one day to take Massimo by the arm, bring him to some foreign city and imagine a concept store with him, featuring the entire culinary traditions of Florence.”
› Pasticceria Neri | Sesto Fiorentino (FI)
› Pasticceria Neri | Calenzano
› Pasticceria Neri Ponte Vecchio| Firenze
› Pasticceria Neri Street Food| Calenzano