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Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia

Marigold: Redefining Rome's Coffee and Brunch Culture

How a pop-up bakery turned restaurant is changing how Italians view food and coffee. 

Amid the bustling chaos of Ostiense, where the busyness of nine-to-five workers meets the carefree nature of families who live in the area, sits a hidden gem: Marigold. Marigold is one of the city’s few specialty coffee shops that also serves as a restaurant and mini-bakery.

This enchanting haven of a restaurant offers an oasis, an escape from the tourist-filled areas of Rome, inviting locals and those in the know to indulge in locally sourced dishes and really good coffee. Running the joint is an innovative tag team of owners who want to bring about the modernization of coffee, food, and service to the curious wanderers of Rome’s streets.

Marigold stands out in Ostiense, not just because it’s attempting to change the coffee and brunch culture in Rome, but because the shop is a very modernized institution that dares to buck the trend of Italy’s centuries-old, jealously guarded, and highly resilient coffee culture. I sat down and was immediately greeted by Freja, a Danish hostess who moved to Italy.

After ordering, I took the time to watch over the blissful chaos that was Marigold. Young Italian couples and friends all having quiet conversations about everything and nothing. A clueless British couple that appeared to be lost in the madness of Rome. Young entrepreneurs sharing laughs over lattes. And nestled in the corner of the shop, hard at work on her computer, sat a woman. I sat down with Sofie Wochner, one of the owners, while she had her morning breakfast: fresh sourdough toast with homemade strawberry marmalade and homemade butter.

Marigold was founded by Sofie and her partner, Domenico Cortese, in 2018, after years spent doing pop-up dinners at their home in Monteverde. The pop-up transitioned into a weekly bake sale, then a private chef service catering for Rome’s embassies, and now a brick-and-mortar store. She says she and Domenico spent a very long time looking for the perfect place to set up shop as they wanted to find a “real neighborhood where real people live, real Italians live, and not just a kind of place where it’s easy to get the crowds, the tourists.”

Being a barista back in the States, I had the pleasure of getting to discuss specialty coffee with Sofie. She and her partner are actively trying to change the culture around not just coffee in Italy but the way Italians view meals as well. “Coming from Denmark, the culture is very established there. I’ve been drinking specialty coffee for the last 20 years and it couldn’t be more different in Rome.” Not only the coffee, but everything they do at Marigold is different from typical Roman and Italian culture.

For starters, brunch is not an established practice in Rome, let alone Italy. Being that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, according to Sofie, she feels she should share her love for it with Rome. Marigold is only open until 3 in the afternoon, meaning you won’t see primi, a second plate, let alone aperitivo. When it comes to coffee, Sofie says one of her main jobs includes sourcing all of the ingredients at Marigold, which includes coffee beans. In an attempt to not stray from Italian tradition, she tried finding good coffee beans in Italy.

The product was not good, so she ventured elsewhere, eventually finding a roaster abroad. Today, Marigold offers two rotating single-origin espressos: El Salvador La Montañita and Ethiopia Idido Rocko Mountain. Sofie and Marigold are trying to teach Italians that coffee is a fruit, and how it grows and how it’s roasted makes the flavor differ for every bean. Like great Italian wines, specialty coffee also has flavor notes and pairings that can enhance the drinker's experience.

With Marigold’s El Salvador espresso particularly, the flavor notes include mango, almond, and brown sugar. Sofie admits that while she likes to claim that they are very Italian, Marigold sticks out among the crowd. “Romans are a bit like, ‘Wow! Where is the antipasti? Where is the primi? Oh my god, this coffee is very sour.’ We take that as an invitation to kind of like (change the culture).”

One of the main goals of Marigold is their promise to practice sustainability. “We don’t have anything that is prepared. Everything from the butter to the lemonade, everything is made in-house.” Sofie also made it a point to express that she doesn’t just practice and talk about sustainability for the simple fact that it’s a “buzzword” but because it’s something they’re both deeply committed to. Everything you eat in the restaurant is a local ingredient found at a nearby farm or at Mercato Testaccio.

Sofie went on to explain how Marigold is actively making strides to touch more and more of the city of Rome. Although most of her regulars are customers from the surrounding Testaccio and Ostiense area, she says many people travel from all over Rome to, at the very least, try the idea of brunch and “non-Italian coffee.” “Now we are such an established place that (people’s misconceptions) have turned around a lot. There are a lot of Italians, also locals, that really appreciate specialty coffee and everything else we do as well.” The idea of brunch was foreign to most Romans, and Sofie has started that conversation here in Rome. The idea of drinking and enjoying non-Italian coffee? Try having that very difficult conversation. Sofie did.

I wrapped up my conversation with Sofie asking what stamp she wants to leave with Marigold. Sofie hopes that she and her business can leave an imprint on her staff as well. She hopes that when her employees move forward and start working elsewhere, they understand the importance of sourcing local ingredients and the fundamentals of working in a good kitchen. As for Rome? “I believe we have been helping Rome a little bit. Small steps and in the little parts this place can.” She believes the ideals she and Domenico have instilled into their staff and into the surrounding areas can make an impact on food culture in Rome. She hopes that all restaurants can go back to using locally sourced, fresh ingredients. So every customer and every person that has ever stepped foot in the shop is taking a little bit of Marigold’s ideals with them. Sofie appreciates everyone that stops in her shop, especially the locals and regulars who have opened their minds and given the brainchild of Sofie and Domenico a chance. “They just keep coming back. Day after day, week after week. And that is something that makes me really happy.”

 

 

 

 

 

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General Info

Address Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37, 00154 Roma RM, Italia

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Marigold: Redefining Rome's Coffee and Brunch Culture

Via Giovanni da Empoli, 37, 00154 Roma RM, Italia

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