Olive oil may seem arbitrary to some, but to Italian culture, it is the glue that holds cuisine together. Small business owner Alessandra immigrated to New York City in 1981, and has brought with her the ingenuity of her food and business. Paradiso Cafe, in its new location since 2009, has survived the ups and downs of business through adaptation and quality work. Paradiso began as a tiramisu café, as Alessandra simply wanted a coffee shop. However, to survive, she stuck to her italian roots and expanded her menu. With her family-imported olive oil, she now serves salads, sandwiches, soups and pasta to keep her business profitable. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Alessandra works about 90 hours a week, with only a handful of employees and her husband to help her.
The struggles Alessandra faced, however, do not cause her to regret her choices. She is a proud immigrant, and has adapted to decades of changing demographics in the East Village.
The warm atmosphere that Alessandra has successfully provided to Paradiso makes it a successful business, regardless of wealth. Serving complimentary bread and olive oil, she treats each customer like a guest in her own home, providing family recipes to all who enter.
The olive oil she serves also symbolizes her intelligence and strength. Adaptation to new demands, immigration from a home filled with family, and frustration with rising rent prices and an ever-changing customer base have all attributed to her daily use of olive oil.
– Gabrielle Goubran