CB1 – the new city quarter for Cambridge

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28 August 2018

Farinata and other flavours of Liguria, Italy, here on Station Place

We speak to Roberto, the owner of 'Zio Mario', the italian bakery and restaurant at 21 Station Place about how he came to Cambridge and his dreams for the cafe.

Roberto, tell us a bit about yourself and the café.

I was born into a family of bakers in Italy, but my career developed quite differently. I worked in various industries and I travelled all across Europe for work. I moved to Cambridge in 2009, both for personal and business reasons.

I knew I wanted to start up my own business at some point, so I qualified as a chef before working in restaurants and food businesses for a couple of years before investing in my own café. I signed for this spot in October 2016 and fitted it out as an artisan coffee shop and bakery before opening in January 2017.

What does ‘Zio Mario’ mean?

It means ‘Uncle Mario’ - Mario is my mother’s brother. He’s the last one running the family business in Italy. As a child I went to Mario’s pizzeria for my breakfast. I always thought that if I were to start up a food business one day, I would name it after him.

What are your signature bakes?

Our menu is inspired by Liguria, the region where I was born. Our speciality would be farinata, a savoury pancake made from chickpea flower. I haven’t seen it anywhere else in England: it’s totally unique.  Something I created for the café is the ‘pizza muffin’, a muffin-shaped pizza-bite for either veggies or meat eaters. As for the pasta, we do tortiglioni, and also spinach and ricotta gnocchi with the choice of Bolognese ragu, or mushroom and five cheese sauces. We also serve home-made artisan ice cream and smoothies, which have been especially popular this summer.

We’ve got great reviews for our coffee! People come knowing they can get a proper coffee to take away before getting the train.

What do you like about CB1?

It’s a new area. I like that there’s an effort to build something here where there was nothing before. Cambridge is a small space so everything is close by.

Does the bakery feel part of the community?

We’ve got a lot of returning customers who like the atmosphere, the food, and our friendly staff. But, being near the station, there are also a lot of people coming and going, commuting. It’s a great mix!

What’s the atmosphere like?

It’s a bright space because it’s glass fronted. We’re always playing jazz music, and there’s good Wifi. We’re a small team, mostly Italians. Mediterranean tiles decorate the interior, all the counter tops and tables and chairs are wooden, and a big window shows straight through to the kitchen, so the public can see the chefs at work.

Is the café child-friendly?

Yes, we like dogs and bike-riders too!

We are huge fans of your coffee. Do you encourage drinking at the bar?

We’ve got great reviews for our coffee! People are busy around here, so if they do have time, they’ll take a seat, but often people come knowing they can get a proper coffee to take away before getting the train.

What do you hope for the future of the café and CB1?

That it keeps developing, that the pavement is always busy, and that there’s ever more reason for people to come this way, regardless of where they’re heading next.

Zio Mario is at 21 Station Place, CB1

For more stories from the personalities who make CB1, look out for our quarterly newsletter, See, Be.

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