Filicori Zecchini opened for business in the Towson Town Center in December, and while the franchise focuses on coffee, the new Maryland location is making waves in the Baltimore Jewish community because of its commitment to keeping kosher.
“There’s not a lot of places that are kosher in the area,” said Cladiu Onigoaie, manager at the Towson location. “[The owners] wanted to bring something special that you don’t find in any corner store and [have it be] kosher on top of it all.”
The Italy-based franchise started nearly a century ago, taking its name from Aldo Filicori and Luigi Zecchini who set up shop in Bologna to begin perfecting what they saw as the key to perfect coffee: the roasting.
With the exception of food ingredients, almost everything Filicori Zecchini uses is an Italian import, from the beans for their coffee to the décor of the cozy café, which sits near Nordstrom in the mall.
The restaurant has taken strides to cater to the observant Jewish community by being certified kosher under the supervision of Rabbi Y. Zvi Weiss. It also stocks several kinds of milk including soy, almond and Chalav Yisrael — a level of kosher that ensures that dairy products have been created only under the supervision of an observant Jew.
“Starbucks is fine, but I can give you something better for cheaper. This is how coffee is supposed to taste, and we take a lot of pride in our coffee.” — Cladiu Onigoaie, manager at Filicori Zecchini in Towson
Onigoaie began learning about brewing coffee in his native Romania, when a friend offered him a barista position at a high-end coffee shop. When he moved to the U.S. five years ago, he had heard about the American obsession with Starbucks so he decided to taste it for himself. He was less than impressed.
“Starbucks is fine, but I can give you something better for cheaper,” said Onigoaie. “This is how coffee is supposed to taste, and we take a lot of pride in our coffee.”
Onigoaie explained the idea behind the menu was to offer small, light food items to be paired Filicori’s coffee. While he personally favors espresso, Onigoaie recommends the hazelnut latte and cheese Danish.
The amount of attention to detail is reflected in Filicori’s drinks, which focus on crafting full-flavored lattes, mochas and cappuccinos that, unlike a traditional cup of coffee, don’t need any alterations with cream or sugar.
Diners will notice that the cheese Danish in particular offers a little more sweetness with a creamy center and a chewy, doughy exterior — a satisfying snack for any mall goer, but light enough to not discourage walking around the town center.
“[Europeans] take time for coffee,” said Jordan Pompey, a barista at Filicori. “We don’t drink coffee while driving or on the go.”
Pompey, who is a native of Metz, France, used to live in New York, where he was general manager at a Filicori location. He moved to Baltimore several months ago when the Towson location opened and has been helping to train new staff.
He explained Americans and Europeans have a different culture surrounding coffee. While Americans are always on the go, Europeans tend to sit down more often just to enjoy a coffee.
“I have become a little more American in this way. I started to drink a lot of coffee to go because in America, I think people work more hours,” said Pompey. “I don’t have as much time to sit at a table and drink coffee, I wish I had time to do that.”
When it comes to his drink of choice, Pompey enjoys a “double espresso to wake me up.”