Passion - Quattro Passi Caffe and Wine Bar

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Passion is a small word with a big meaning. For such a powerful word it is surprising how often it is used. If you want to know its true meaning, visit Quattro Passi and talk to Vikki and Robbie. They own and run a café and wine bar on the corner Yurong and Liverpool streets in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. They are truly passionate about what they do. They have an equal love for food and people. It’s not something they have learnt or set out to achieve, it’s something they have in them, it’s in the heart and that’s essential if you’re running a café. 

So here’s what you should do if you want to start your own café business. 

First decide if you’re the right person for the job.

How many people have thought about opening a café or restaurant? Damn it, I have! How nice would it be to hang out in a café all day? But really what sort of person should do it? I asked Vikki and she said, if you aren’t passionate about food, don’t even try and if you’re not a ‘people-person’ you won’t have what it takes, “and you shouldn’t be in it for the money either, I can show you my bank account balance if you like!” There are lots of tips on how you should treat people and satisfy their needs in hospitality, but if you don’t love what you do then you aren’t being honest with yourself or your customers and that leads to failure.

Before setting up in Darlinghurst, Robbie and Vikki had a café in Paddington for 5 years and established a loyal ‘family’ of customers. Robbie (or Roberto Fucci) is originally from a small village called Nerano on the Serrento Peninsula along the Amalfi Coast of Italy. He says he made his first cup of coffee at the age of 5 when his father helped him up onto a milk crate to pull down the coffee machine handle. His family have run a beach restaurant and bar for 3 generations, it’s a very traditional area of Italy, so you could say coffee, food, wine and family are very important to Robbie. Vikki is from the English countryside, not too far from London. Her mother was a chef and she has always been into food. However, despite 4 years at college and numerous jobs in catering it wasn’t until she came to Australia that she found her true passion for good healthy, soulful food. The freshness and abundance of the Australian produce changed her concept of food forever, but perhaps, meeting an Italian boy may have also helped!

The next thing to do is make the place look good.

Vikki and Robbie have always wanted to open a wine bar and a chance to buy an existing café and liquor licence came up. They had a clear idea of how they wanted the place to look, choosing a black and white theme that was inspired by a wallpaper from Florence Broadhurst. The colours make the café feel ‘more professional’, ideal for the business customers during the day and a ‘little sophisticated’ for the evening crowd. Inside a number of dark stained tables and 2 larger communal ones with bent wood chairs, stools under a high shelf and a bench with cushions along a mirrored wall provide a variety of places for people to sit with friends or on their own. Large lampshades for the day and candles at night create a comfortable atmosphere. We want people to feel included, Vikki explains, everyone in the room is made to feel like they are part of the family. Customers say they like the ‘banter’, the conversations across the room, half listening to what Robbie or Vikki is saying to someone as they wait for their coffee. Quattro Passi is an extension their home, a place to relax, but also a place to meet friends and colleagues. The interior was produced on a budget. The wine display is a half price Ikea unit made from part of a black and part of a white unit, The effect is clever for such a familiar piece of furniture. The wine list is hand written in red on the mirrored wall to look like lipstick, perfect for the evening time. Framed pictures have either been drawn by customers from their old Paddington café or are of Robbie’s home village on the Amalfi Coast. 

Decide on a name and image.

So, why the Quattro Passi name? “Well we did think of calling it Robbie and Vikki’s (or Vikki and Robbie’s) because that is why some people come here, but really the name we chose sounds more professional and more Italian!” Like many business owners they had no idea about their logo and they left it up to a designer friend to come up with a few options. The final one is a hand written font that adds to the homely, welcoming image. The menus use old hardback book covers with bulldog clips to hold in the sheets and customers are encouraged to write comments on them.

Have a good product.

Robbie and Vikki’s goal is to always make good wholesome food that’s fresh and home cooked without over indulging in hundreds of ingredients. They have a few signature dishes, corncakes, stews and scrambled eggs for breakfast. The food, however, changes to fit what customers want and now in their new Darlinghurst home they find they are making more meat dishes, pies, stews and meatloaf. In the evening they have Stuzzichini, an Italian equivalent to tapas - appetisers to complement the wines such as prosecco. This is the time for the aperitivo a peaceful pause before dinner. 

Keep the place spotlessly clean

As in any retailing business, a cafe is on show to the public from the moment the doors are open, to the close of trade. If you operate a food business, a very high standard of housekeeping goes without saying and a less than clean place, no matter how chic the decor, gives customers the perception of poor standards of food handling and kitchen cleanliness. A good practice for any cafe owner is to step back and see it from the customer’s point of view. Is the shopfront clean? How much dust or grime has collected on the signs? Do the customers see spotless tables, floors, fixtures, light fittings, walls and ceilings? Is clutter gathering around the cash counter or on any other surfaces? If customers can see the food service area or kitchen, is every surface scrubbed clean? A clean place shows you care, “it’s being honest”, says Vikki.

Look after your customers

“You have to treat people like human beings”, says Robbie. “Everyone has a name, they’re not just a flat white with one!” Both Robbie and Vikki make a point of asking customers their names and to find out a bit about them. It is all to make people feel like it’s not just a place to get a coffee it’s somewhere that you want to come back to. Learning what coffee they like also helps and you should always find out how they like it, Robbie says, fundamental, but some places don’t, making the coffee the way they want to. Vikki sometimes plays a game in the car on the way home by saying a customer’s name and letting Robbie say what coffee they have. One time they got up to 300. Imagine making hundreds of coffees a day, it must get boring. “No, you have to make it enjoyable.” Occasionally a customer mentions they are going on a diet, so Robbie might secretly reduce the number of sugars in their coffee. A week later they ask him to make their coffee with one less sugar and he smiles and nods his head!

Clearly if you are going to run a café and wine bar there are some things you must get right, such as creating a look, designing the space, the logo and menus, but there is one super ingredient that I learnt you must have when I visited Quattro Passi – passion. Without passion all your hard work will feel just like hard work and you’ll be there just to make money and what is the p

oint of that? Robbie and Vikki’s hopes for the future are to be open 5 nights a week and be happy making people smile, seeing them come back, making Quattro Passi a destination and with this will come some money and success.

Passion means:

  • Loving your product
  • Wanting to talk to people
  • Finding out their names and being genuinely interested in them
  • Making people happy
  • Creating a place to relax and enjoy
  • …And finally, of course, enjoying yourself.

All this can easily be applied to anything you sell, not just food, all you need is a love for what you do and you will find business is much more fun.

Quattro Passi Caffe and Wine Bar, 176 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst. Open Mon – Tues 7am – 4pm, Weds – Fri 7am – 10pm, Sat 8am – 4pm. Alcohol served all day.


Customers enjoying lunch                                             The original concept

Happy Birthday Picture                                                 The Broadhurst Design Inspiration 

The interior of Quattro Passi                                          The Exterior of Quattro Passi

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