Roqqett Blog

Rolling Italy: on turning passion into profession

Ahead of our Bristol launch, we caught up with James and Chloe, the owners of Rolling Italy. Renowned for their great tasting locally sourced Coffee, served from their Piaggio porter, an authentic Italian vehicle, we wanted to get to know the husband-and-wife team behind this local business. 

 

How did the idea of Rolling Italy come about? 

James: I had been working as a chef for 12 years. I loved cooking, but I was cooking what other people wanted on their menus. I wanted to start cooking the food that I loved.

Chloe: As a couple, we’ve always loved Italy. It’s the food, the wine and the people. It’s where we got married. In 2014, James quit his job and started Rolling Italy. We bought an Italian wheeler, Piaggio Ape van and started selling homemade Italian street food and coffee. Our first event was just five days after having our son, so the pressure was on to make this work. 

 

What’s the story behind the name?

James: When I was a chef, I worked alongside a Hungarian kitchen porter, Barney. He’d come to the UK to improve his English, but he was a graphic designer by trade. One day, we were chatting about this Italian street food idea that I’d had. The following morning, he came in with a name and logo that he’d designed.

He’d perfectly captured what we were about. Rolling around in an Italian van selling something that’s quite Italian. We were Italy on wheels, and rolling Italy was perfect.

It stuck, it’s the same design that we use today!Van Still

 

What were some of the biggest challenges when setting up Rolling Italy?

Chloe: There’s a lot of preparation when running a food business. Everything we made was from scratch, it was labour intensive and some nights we would be up until 3am rolling arancini. So, when an event wasn’t as popular as we’d expected, it was disheartening. 

James: From our first coffee event, we learnt a lot. At the time, we didn’t know much about coffee or how to make a great latte. We had great feedback after that event, there was little preparation and no wastage so our focus changed and our passion for coffee grew. 

 

Who or what is your inspiration?

James: Food wise, it was Andrew Griffin. We worked together for seven years. He was the head chef who taught me how to cook and inspired my love for rustic Italian food. He was the one who gave me the confidence to go out and start my own business. 

Coffee wise, tasing great coffee made me want to make great coffee. I’m quite meticulous about how I make it, it’s what keeps me working hard. I want the perfect coffee every time and my inspiration is to make great coffee for every customer, regardless of whether it’s their first time visiting us, or whether they’re a regular. 

 

We’ve heard that you weigh 18 grams of coffee grinds each time you make a coffee. Why is that?

James: People love the latte art, but the hardest coffee to make is an espresso. You can’t hide it with anything, it’s just pure coffee. That’s why it’s really important to master a good espresso shot. 

I treat everything like I’m baking the cake. Every coffee is weighted and timed so it will be as good as the last one. 18 grams is the basic espresso recipe that I use. But each coffee can change and run slightly faster or slower, so I’m constantly adjusting things to keep it in the sweet zone. 

The end product has to be good. If you follow the right steps, you know it’ll taste good. You can sell anything to a customer, but unless it’s great, they’ll never come back. That’s why I think it’s really important for every coffee to be as good as the last one. Having that mentality has definitely helped us over the years. 

 

 

Are you a self-taught barista?

James: Pretty much yes. When we got the van and the coffee machine, I thought I should teach myself how to make coffee which would taste just as good as the coffee I'd had before. I started reading books, watching videos and asking for advice from other baristas when I would buy coffee. Even now, I’m still learning, I’m constantly learning. I can safely say that learning about coffee is just as addictive as drinking it! Once you start learning, you want to learn more.

 

How did you settle on your current blend of coffee?

James: We use Extract Coffee. They’re one of the local Roaster’s here in Bristol. There are lots of good roasters in the city, but we love Extract because they source ethically and responsibly and have a passion for making coffee as good as it possibly can be, something we share with them. They have also been great supporters of Rolling Italy from day one, which has meant a lot to us.

 

Favourite thing about working in Bristol?

James: Both myself and Chloe have travelled around the world, but we’ve always loved coming home. It’s such a diverse city with an amazing food and drink scene, it has a great vibe. We love that there’s always something going on, we’re never short of a music or food event here in Bristol. 

 

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