In a way, Mazzaro's Italian Market owes its existence to coffee. The Cuccaro family began roasting its own beans in order to supply good and price-efficient coffee to the six St. Pete Bagel locations they owned at the time. After selling the bagel company, they wanted to continue roasting, so in 1993 they opened the market (named after owner Kurt Cuccaro’s mother Pat Mazzaro), serving on-site roasted coffee along with a few Italian products.
The rest is coffee history. Kurt and his father Sam Cuccaro continue to oversee all of the roasting, processing upward of 1,000 pounds a week on a cherry red, Clearwater-made Ambex machine. And that’s with zero wholesale business; they supply just enough for customers coming to the store. The roaster is located just off the corner of the coffee bar, and the smell wafts through the rest of the store, mixing with the aromas of baking bread, cheese, and deli.
Even at 2 p.m. on a Thursday, Mazzaro’s coffee bar buzzes with conversation from regulars like Matthew Terzi, a swarthy 67-year-old who started coming here with his late wife years ago.
“We always came here for coffee,” he says sipping his latte. “The atmosphere is diverse. There’s a little bit of everyone here.”
Until recently, roasting was done on a 1928 roaster Cuccaro describes as a “really cool old beast.” Unlike the carefully monitored computer system on the Ambex, the old roaster was mostly just monitored by Kurt and his father (the open flame gas roaster proved potentially dangerous, thus the upgrade).
Beans are roasted about 20 minutes, coming primarily from Columbia, Ethiopia,and Mexico. Roasting time is higher, meaning a darker roast, more akin to Italian coffee blends.
“We never get tired of doing this,” Cuccaro says. “Other things here are done by other people. But this is something we haven’t passed onto anyone else. We like it that much.”
Mazzaro’s Italian Market, 2909 22nd Ave. N., St Petersburg, mazzarosmarket.com.