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Italian Artisanal Coffee Café Concept from Florence to Expand into Canada with 1st Location Opening Spring 2022 and More Planned [Exclusive]

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Ditta Artigianale, Italy’s preeminent artisanal coffee roaster, is expanding its footprint from three stores in Florence to add its first North American location in Toronto.

The Toronto flagship location will be opening in the Garment District at Richmond Street West and Bathurst Street West – which has seen huge development in the past five years with more to come.

francesco sanapo
Francesco Sanapo

The brand was founded in 2013 by Francesco Sanapo, a world-renowned barista and roaster, and Patrick Hoffer.

“Opening Ditta in Toronto is a dream come true for me. When I created the Ditta Artigianale concept, I always thought it would become an international company featuring a fine Italian touch and showing the world a new wave of Italian coffee. This is a big opportunity for me, for Ditta, for Italy, showing and sharing the high quality of Italian specialty coffee. I cannot wait to serve Ditta’s coffee to the people of Toronto,” said Sanapo, who is the company’s CEO.

“You can’t imagine how excited I am to spread my coffee in Canada, in Toronto.”

The new cafe will be located on the ground floor of The Harlowe condominium apartment building and will be open for coffee, pastry, brunch and signature cocktails in the evening.

Image: Ditta Artigianale

And the company plans to open new locations in Canada and the United States in the future.

You could say coffee is in Sanapo’s blood. He is the personification of coffee, winning Italy’s best roaster in 2019 and twice being a finalist in the World Barista Championship. His love has spread to the current staff who have won four Italian barista championships.

Staff from Toronto will have the opportunity to train in Florence to ensure the same rules and protocols are followed across the pond making for an experience equal in quality.

The new cafe will open its doors in the spring of 2022 and aside from being open during the day for coffee and brunch fare it will also radiate at night as a slick cocktail bar featuring Peter in Florence, Italy’s first Tuscan-made artisanal gin founded by Ditta’s co-founder Hoffer.

The Harlow (Rendering: LAMB DEV. CORP)
Alexander Zeleniuch

Alexander  Zelenuich, the company’s Chief Operating Officer, said the company has built a really strong base in Florence and pre-COVID Florence was hopping with tourists and students – a big part of the customer base – with many of them from North America.

“In Canada and the USA, it’s common to go to a coffee shop and work and socialize, hang out. That didn’t exist in Florence and was very rare in Italy. And so that’s why we had so much success here,” he said. “What we realized is that there would probably be demand for this kind of model outside of Italy, especially if we hit the Italian notes just right. So we keep it within specialty coffee but with an Italian touch.

“One of the major points that makes us unique compared to some of the other peers out there in the field is we also have a sister company if you will that’s a separate company but it’s a gin company, and it’s an artisanal gin company called Peter in Florence and it’s produced 30 minutes outside of Florence. We grow 10 out of the 14 botanicals that we use to distil the gin.

“And what makes Ditta really special is that given we’re paying rent 24 hours a day most coffee shops close at 5 or 6 and that’s it. They just do coffee, maybe some light bites. We said well we have this gin company, why don’t we turn it into an aperitivo bar. We don’t need to stay open all night. We don’t need to do dinner service. But let’s keep the same quality we have for coffee and apply it to cocktails. When I joined I thought something like this would drive in North America. It’s logical to move there because there’s demand for specialty coffee, there’s demand for craft cocktails and it’s all with a very Italian soul and Francesco is the heartbeat behind that soul.”

Zelenuich said the company’s expansion plans are quite ambitious to scale in the next few years. There is still room for growth in Florence. Then from there it’s focused on Toronto to open a few more there and in Canada.

Ayana Miller, operating partner of Ditta Artigianale Canada, said the company is looking at about five locations in the GTA first, mirroring the same strategy as what it has done in Italy with Florence as the base.

“Really building momentum in a certain area and creating the foundation that’s very strong and then expanding outwardly in Canada as well. There is also plans of opening a location in Los Gatos, California too, right in the Silicon Valley, which is also known for its love of coffee,” said Miller.

Ditta Artigianale – Via Carducci

“What brings that unique twist to Ditta is that it has that Italian soul even if you look at the design of everything, the intention behind everything. This special vibe, this dolce vita, that Ditta Artigianale holds has spoken to so many that we have an association with the luxury brands such as Dolce & Gabbana and Brunello Cucinelli in terms of the Peter in Florence gin.”

Ditta brings high quality coffees to Italy and the world with a focus on total transparency and sustainability throughout the supply chain. The brand’s philosophy is based on researching the most exclusive micro-lots, establishing direct relationships with producers and engaging in special roasting techniques to give consumers a unique, quality-orientated experience, said the company.

The company said the concept was inspired by the third wave roaster movement, displaying coffee as another example of exquisite Italian craftmanship.

“I want to protect my company to grow up in a really good way, in a healthy way. That’s the reason why we haven’t opened up yet in Milano or in Rome,” said Sanapo. “Just because I’m protecting the growth of my company.

“As a coffee lover, more than expert, more than everything, what I want to keep always on my way to spread out coffee is every coffee I serve I want to make richness. This can appear in very simple things, but that doesn’t happen very often. I spend part of my life travelling to find the best coffee.”

Jackson Turner of CBRE negotiated the Ditta Artigianale lease deal on behalf of the brand.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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