Melissa the Barista

By Millie S. Liu

There are very few female baristas in Italy. There are few inter-ethnic Italians. Cagli has both.

At 20 years old, she is one of the few successful baristas in her profession and fell into it by accident after answering a job posting. Her barista lessons began at 16. She exudes energy and enthusiasm as she carefully crafts cappuccinos, expresso with hot milk plus steamed-milk foam, while gracefully gliding behind the counter.

Melissa studied classical ballet for seven years and modern jazz for two years. Melissa is quick on her feet and never stops moving. She is always busy multi-tasking whether it is recalling what a customer ordered when settling the bill or quickly special-ordering dishes for clients. Each customer’s name and regular orders are quickly recalled. During her breaks, she waxes the bar counter with such care that one may believe the caffe were her own.

Though Melissa has heard of Starbucks, she has never entered one. When she was younger, she saw a Starbucks in Amsterdam. “It did not generate interest”. If you made killer espressos, would you have a desire to go to Starbucks

Melissa Luchetti’s mother is from Thailand. Her father is Italian. While working in a factory in Switzerland, her father met her mother, the daughter of a Thai general.

Melissa Luchetti preparing one of her famous Cappuccinos

Melissa Luchetti preparing one of her famous Cappuccinos

“My grandfather was happy for the marriage and didn’t care for the cultural differences,” Melissa nonchalantly stated as though her grandfather’s acceptance were the norm for inter-ethnic marriages. Her brother is the only other multi-cultural born Italian in Cagli.

One may think that her Thai-Italian background might influence how others treat or perceive her. But in Cagli, Melissa “is an Italian”. The locals accept immigrants who assimilate into the Italian culture and community. However, when immigrants are “ignorant about the Italian culture, they are considered arrogant and excluded from the community,” says Melissa.

In addition to Italian, Melissa learned English in school. By visiting her family in Thailand, she can speak a little of the language. Melissa is very shy when speaking, but one can sense that she is a strong woman deep down inside.

Melissa’s summer job is creating excellent drinks at Caffe del Commercio while joyfully interacting with her clients. Her favorite time to work is the evening, when the younger crowd lounges at the caffe.

She learned everything about the caffe business from Mimi, the caffe owner. However, her mother has been the most important influence in her life. Mimi and Melissa’s mother-daughter like relationship is illuminated by the outgoing Mimi and soft-spoken Melissa gracefully interacting as if they were a pair of hands. Mimi constantly gushes about Melissa’s stellar grades.

Currently studying Economics in Rimini, Melissa intends to become a tour guide operator because of her “passion for traveling and interacting with people”. After marrying her fiancé Paolo, 22 years old, Melissa hopes to move to an Italian city and own a travel agency. “Paolo will be happy to move anywhere” Melissa moves. He is “supportive of all career aspirations”.

The Cagliese couple met at a party. Paolo is 100% Italian. His parents don’t even notice that Melissa is part Thai. Melissa will integrate her Thai background in her future endeavors.

There are few relevant opportunities for Melissa in Cagli because of the economic situation and geographic location. She plans to juggle a career and family with the help of her future husband and parents.

As with many, American culture has influenced Melissa’s taste in music and movies. Though she feels that she and Italian women have changed for the better as a result, Melissa feels there is room for more improvement.

Her Italian upbringing is the root for her self-image and opinions; however, her mother has been the most important influence in her life. This is evident when it comes to fashion. Unlike the Italian trend, Melissa “wears what she likes” and does not care about the label.

Her Italian side surfaces when she speaks of politics. Melissa believes the news reports about Berlusconi are “rumors”. Despite the rumors, she is “not a fan of the popular Prime Minister”.

Melissa’s advice to all women: work hard and you will achieve your goals.

Melissa is a unique pearl in a string of pearls that represent the women of Cagli. Although situated in an ancient and humble town, her pioneering spirit as a barista and passion for travel coupled with her strong beliefs in culture and politics are just one example of the many pearls that make up Cagli.

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