To operate a cafeteria in a community center has its challenges, but it’s something Anna Lisa and Luigi, the husband-and-wife team that owns The Corner Coffee & Pantry, have mastered. They have designed a comfortable, friendly environment where they know many of their customers’ names and strive to provide great service and quality food. 

Corner offers a great breakfast menu and Italian, 100 percent Arabica roasted coffee in addition to fresh fruit smoothies. Their signature smoothie is the Hulk: spinach, bananas, mint, orange, green apples, pineapples and lemon – worth trying! They also offer great lunch options, like lasagna, personal size pizzas and salads that are prepared fresh when ordered. 

The Corner Coffee & Pantry is located inside the Key Biscayne Community Center and open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

Name: Anna Lisa Volpe and Luigi Tommasini, owners and operators of The Corner Coffee & Pantry.

Question: Where were you born?

Answer: Reggio Emilia, Italia

Q: Where do you live now?

A: We reside in Key Biscayne along with our three kids, Sara (15), Chiara (13), and Francesco (12).

Q: How did you get your start in this industry?

A: Luigi owned and operated a cafeteria in Italy, much like Corner Coffee & Pantry, where he would serve 400-plus coffees daily. Anna Lisa and Luigi always talked about moving to the United States in search of better education opportunities for their kids. In 2013, they moved to Panama, where they mastered their Español and opened three beauty spa salons, which are still operational. When they moved to the United States two years ago, Anna Lisa always spoke of wanting to open a cafeteria in Key Biscayne. An Italian friend owned Corner, and Anna Lisa convinced her to sell to them.

Q: What is your “secret to success”?

A: Buen producto y buena atención (a good product and excellent service). They also love, and are proud to be part of, the Key Biscayne community. As an example, Luigi mentioned the recent July 4 parade, where they donated ice cream to be sold in the Rotary tent.

Q: What’s your proudest moment in your career?

A: When customers tell us they like the change in the cafeteria and are happy with our products and service.

Q: Any funny stories you can share?

A: They both laughed when describing a recent visit by Fonseca (famous Colombian singer Juan Fernando Fonseca). Anna Lisa waited on him and said thank you – but she did not know who he was!

Q: What do you love most about your career?

A: To share time and exchange stories and comments with our customers, especially the kids that frequent the Community Center. Luigi related how much fun he had during the center’s summer camp program when they kids would line up to buy food on their breaks, laugh and ask, “Donde esta Luigi,” as in the Mario Brothers video game.

Q: If you had to choose one meal, what would it be?

A: Anna Lisa immediately said, “Our lasagna!” She also loves their fresh-fruits smoothies. Luigi enjoys their personal pizza, quipping that he would eat it every day if he could. He also loves their coffee; a strong special Italian roasted blend. They have many customers who visit just to drink the coffee.

Q: If you had to make a dish for yourself, what would you prepare?

A: Luigi’s specialty is Ragu a la Bolognese, and Anna Lisa cooks daily and tries to serve the family a varied menu.

Q: What is your favorite junk food?

A: Luigi loves a good hamburger.

Q: Is there any food you don’t like?

A: Anna Lisa does not enjoy eggplant. Luigi’s dislike is a bit more interesting. He is not partial to what he calls “long pastas,” i.e. spaghetti. Maybe, he said, it stems from when he was a kid and would be a mess from eating spaghetti. If given a choice, he much rather eat penne pasta.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: Beach and boating, they both said. They love living close to the sea.

Q: What’s your favorite part about working in Key Biscayne?

A: It is a paradise for our kids and ourselves, the nature, tranquility, safety and quality of life. Our kids go to school at K-8 and MAST. Living here is the best we can offer our kids.

Q: What would people be surprised to know about you?

A: That we have been together for 20 years, that we are not only a couple but partners, and best of friends.

Q: What’s your advice for someone just starting in your profession?

A: Have lots of patience, and be consistent. Different from Italy and Panama, it took us longer here to get the business up and running. Do things right and do not give up at the first defeat!