Issue #54b

Michele Casadei Massari

Il Vulcanico

Born in 1975, I am 100% the Son of my Mom, Bianca and my dad Danilo, I grew up in Bologna, located in the center of Italy, and seasoned between Bologna, Padova Riccione and Monterado. When I was a kid my grandfather Luigi once told me, ‘Cook, and you’ll get to travel.’ – I took this to heart, making cooking my engine and a ticket for travel. Before moving to New York almost 6 years ago, I lived in Asia, Bali, where my family started and where my beloved daughter Maitri was born.
After 23 years of Entrepreneur experience around the word, working in many and more fields, such as management, electronics, communications, food, hospitality and entertainment, I understood that there was a niche for me in New York City, a great opportunity for a standing restaurant formula. With Alberto, a great friend, a brother since school, in 2009 we moved from the city we call home, Bologna, and we made Piccolo Cafe happen. Since then I am the CEO, Founder & Executive Chef of now 4 established locations in Manhattan and one dedicated catering division under Piccolo Cafe umbrella.
I am also the Executive Chef at Biografilm Food Academy proudly helping, scouting, coordinating, suggesting and managing for the food and beverage operations for the film festival (art director Andrea Romeo) taking place in Bologna every year in June.

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What do you do in your life (work and fun)?

I am the founder, owner and Executive Chef at Piccolo Café here in New York City.
I am full of passion for Food, Movies and design. All my free time goes to my amazing family and daughter Maitri, she means the world to me.

What made you leave Italy and chose NYC?

With Alberto and another friend of ours we decided to have an experience in New York and to see how and if we could make it. Well, we are here since then with four locations in Manhattan and a dedicated catering division….and bright, vivid eyes!

Please share your best memory in the City.

December 24, 2009. We got the keys of our first store, ready to open, excited and proud to start, we were inside with the blind semi- closed just leaving few inches space from the floor. At one point we saw two fingers coming out from that space and next to them the face of a dog. We opened the blind and the dog owner smiling said “Welcome new neighbors! I just wanted to wish you guys good luck” It was the beginning. And since then the peace/victory sign is the “secret” sign between Piccolo Cafe team members.

What made you choose this specific location and outfit?

Everything started from there. Union Square and the Gandhi Statue where I nearly got arrested. Funny story: We were pouring shots of espresso like there was no tomorrow during the Holiday Market in 2009 and I thought could be a great marketing move to put our promo sign on Gandhi’s neck. Few minutes later, meanwhile in front of our booth we were experiencing the longest line of the market, a policeman passed by and asked who put the sign on the statue. Full of pride and excitement with a full smile I raised my hand… well, guys, never ever put any sign on Gandhi’s statue. I learned, in the hard way, that that area of Union Square park is part of the Yosemite National Park. Luckily the police never finalize my arrest, but this is how we started and this is why this location has a very particular space in our memories and hearts. No special outfit for us, we are stylish the way we are. Less is more, our passion and bright eyes dress us.

Your thought about this project, ITALIANY.US

I think this is a very interesting project Alexo collected and made of different experience, people and stories one thing.
He gave the space and the opportunity to all of us to express ourself outside of our routine and “job positions”.

How would you describe being an ambassador of the italian style/culture abroad?

An honor and a big responsibility. Being Italian and being able to live abroad, sharing the creativity, culture and passion we carry in our DNA is a great gift. Wherever we go, we make the difference. We have also the responsibility not to forget out roots and traditions.

  • Manhattan, NY


  • Time

    120 mins

  • Shots


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A visual celebration of Italians working, living and loving in NY and in the US