Interview with Giuseppe Borin – Internet Café – Santa Bona – Treviso
Giuseppe Borin is the owner, together with his wife Antonella Cestaro, of the historic “Internet Caffè” bar with home cooking. Now an institution, Mr Borin’s bar is located in the Santa Bona district, on the outskirts of Treviso.
Mr Borin, thank you for welcoming us to your premises and for your availability. We would like to start with the question that best captures the sense of our journey in search of the protagonists of the professional life of our territory. Simple and direct.
Who is Giuseppe Borin?
“Who is Giuseppe Borin? Good question! Well! Today Giuseppe Borin is a man married to Antonella and father of Davide. Yesterday Giuseppe Borin was a young man who, after his secondary education, decided not to continue, to devote himself body and soul to the family business. It was a well-considered choice and I consider myself a lucky man because I was able to choose. Today many young people don’t have that possibility. In those years, the eagerness, the ardour that moves young people in their search for the future, prevailed.”
How many years have you been running your business?
“I started running the club on 1 January 1978. This is 2021, so if the maths doesn’t fail me, that’s about 43 years.”
Yours is a family business started by your father and then passed on to you. Do you remember that period?
“Our business never moved from the neighbourhood. So growing up in this environment at that time, being the son of the Oste, was a bit like being everyone’s son. I remember very well the faces of the many people who frequented our place. When I was a boy they all looked so imposing, so mature, men of a mould that has now disappeared. Many of them have gone; taking a little piece of our history with them.”
So many years have passed since then and your place is still here in the same place, in the same neighbourhood where your father opened. How do you manage to adapt to generational changes and new challenges while remaining competitive in the market?
“In 1984 we completely renovated the premises, focusing on a new design. Leaving behind the “Bar-Osteria” style, we focused on a more refined furnishing that satisfied the needs of the times and of the customers. It was a shared path, difficult but appreciated. Of course, I cannot deny that changes are often not accepted by everyone. But if you want to remain up-to-date and competitive in the market, you must never stop renewing yourself, follow the trends of the present and provide a high quality service. At that time we also included the artisan ice cream parlour. I had learnt how to make ice cream from Maestro Guido Franchin of the Tropicana ice cream parlour, who was very well known in the city. He was an extraordinary person from whom I learned a great deal and who gave me secrets that I still treasure. As the years went by, we abandoned ice cream production and concentrated on other products. Cicchetti (which in my father’s time were already a consolidated reality in the Treviso area), ‘masanete’, ‘peoci’, ‘sardee in saor’, ‘capelonghe’, ‘vongoe’, ‘trippe’, ‘musetto col cren’, etc. were and still are a fundamental part of our menu.”
You run your business together with your wife Antonella. How important is the family in this profession?
“For us, as a family-run business, there is no doubt that mutual support and help is essential. My wife Antonella has always been the shoulder to lean on. The backbone of our business. Running a business like ours, which has been going on for many years, involves facing daily challenges, sacrifices, hardships and fatigue. Nothing would have been possible without the support of my wife Antonella. For a while I had Davide at my side: my son. Then Davide chose to take his own path towards new projects and new boundaries. Today he is an established chef working in a large metropolis in Southeast Asia.”
Are you proud of him?
“I am certainly very proud of him. Davide started his working career here in Italy. After his studies, he started some important local collaborations. Just to mention one, the restaurant “Le Querce” in Merlengo di Treviso. This experience taught Davide a lot and he carries it in his heart. After a few years Davide decided to follow his dreams and left for Dubai where he worked in the best restaurants in the city. Today he lives and works permanently in Hong Kong where he collaborates in the management and supply of a major global restaurant chain.”
Do you miss your son?
“My wife Antonella and I have never opposed our son’s choices. In fact, I would say that we were the first ones to encourage him to follow his dreams and ideas. Of course we miss Davide, we miss him a lot. But at the same time we are very happy for him. Davide has found his stability and with it love. He is married to Giada and they both work in the same city.”
Back to you, Mr Borin. Have there been tough moments in your career?
“Fortunately, I have not had any particularly difficult moments to face. Some challenges have been tough: such as adjusting to generational changes, where inevitably some people move away and prefer other paths. These are common occurrences for those who run our kind of business. Perhaps they are less noticeable in central locations or in transit areas. They are more noticeable, however, in peripheral areas like ours, where the regular customer becomes an integral part of your working life and sometimes also of your emotional life.”
Have you ever thought of quitting?
“Honestly, no. Even if, with my age, I can’t deny that I’m thinking about it.”
Can you describe a typical day for you?
“My day starts in the morning. Antonella runs the bar and I start my race against time. Expenses, supplies, searching for fresh produce, payments, etc. – all the commitments we have in our profession. I confess that I like to spend a few moments in the centre of Treviso, specifically in the Isola della Pescheria. A wonderful place in our city where every morning you can find the best fresh fish while enjoying the beauty and authenticity of city chitchat.”
Everyone knows you as “Bepi”. What kind of cuisine does chef Bepi offer?
“We offer a homemade and express cuisine (all made at the moment), simple but with attention to every detail. In addition to the “cicchetterie” I mentioned earlier, we also offer a fish-based cuisine; pasta with different condiments and we are also having a discreet success offering our customers the swordfish spit.”
Would you like to give some advice to young people who want to take up this activity?
“Come on! Come on! Come on! Joking aside, what I would like to say is that if you have the right spirit inside you, don’t be intimidated by the difficulties, everything can be overcome. Study, application and humility are fundamental characteristics for tackling this job, which, if done with passion and love, can give you extraordinary satisfaction.”