A Sip of La Dolce Vita at Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe

Posted Nov 15th, 2018 in Eating Niagara, Marketplace, Food Stories

A Sip of La Dolce Vita at Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe

This post was sponsored by Commisso's Fresh Foods. What does that mean? I was paid by Commisso's Fresh Foods to tell the story of their partnership with Illy and the Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe. The ideas, interviews, writing and editing are my own. Commisso's fact-checked all information in this post before publication.


Something magical happens when a can of Illy coffee beans is opened. 

The Italian national soccer team doesn’t jump out of the oversized tin but it’s the next best thing: a slow and steady stream of Italian air carrying the velvety aroma of dark roast beans.

It’s the kind of experience that could make a card carrying member of Team Tea change sides. Or, at the very least, step up to the counter at the Illy Commisso’s Bistro + Cafe and order herself a cappuccino with cashew milk and a sprinkling of cocoa. 

“In coffee, like the Wonders of the World, there are nine major innovations,” explained Kyla Eaglesham Kennaley, district sales manager for illy caffé North America. “Illy is responsible for three and this can is one of them.”

That pressurized tin that exhales la dolce vita when opened enables the Italian coffee giant to transport its blend of nine highest-order Arabica beans around the globe, including to Commisso’s Fresh Foods in Niagara Falls, which officially unveiled its rebranded in-store eatery this week as the Illy Commisso’s Bistro + Cafe. 

Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe

Those beans in that newly opened can I smelled on Wednesday morning wouldn’t be ready for grinding and brewing for another 12 hours — that time critical to acclimatize them to Niagara and ready them for Illy-mandated brewing protocol at Commisso’s.

But staff at the independent grocer are used to giving ingredients the time they need to reach peak form. Flour used at the in-store bakery to make breads and takeaway pizza, for example, is left to rest for a week before anyone taps into a sack.

It shows respect for ingredients but also Commisso’s commitment to turning out a consistent product that compels customers from all corners of Niagara to shop at the store. 

“When Illy partners with a company, it’s important to make sure everything is consistent,” Eaglesham Kennaley said. “We know when a store treats flour that way, they’ll treat our coffee well.”

Creating a Community Space

The Commisso’s in-store bistro has been a place for locals to take a time-out, catch up and indulge in the ritual of morning coffee or a midday meal since Commisso’s Fresh Foods opened on Thorold Stone Road in 2010. The new partnership with Illy shows the store’s commitment to bringing the best to their regulars and new shoppers, explained Rocky Commisso, store president.

Illy coffe cups on the counter at the Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe

“The big thing with partnering with Illy is it’s a world-class brand,” he said. “We want to keep bringing these kinds of products to our customers.”

Commisso and his family, including brothers Frank and Tony, have a long history of providing Niagara with high-quality grocery options, dating back to 1962 when the Commisso clan opened its first store in Beamsville.

It was only two aisles. Fifteen years later, Rocky, Frank and Tony opened one of Niagara’s first discount grocery stores in Welland and from there, the chain grew to cover a territory stretching from Niagara Falls into Burlington.

In 2004, Commisso’s stores that were fixtures in many neighbourhoods were bought by a national chain. Six years later, the brothers and Commisso’s former director of meat operations, Miro Urge, got together to open Commisso’s Fresh Foods in Niagara Falls after Rocky grew frustrated with local grocery options.

Shopping days for him entailed trips to the health food store, the supermarket, the butcher, and other stops for prepared foods.

“I remember saying this is ridiculous. People need one place to come to find all their things,” Rocky said. “We’re Italian. Food is a natural part of our lives, but what made me get back into it was a need to go shopping and find the things that fit with the lifestyle of today’s consumer. That was missing.”

Today, Commisso’s is staffed by trained professionals, including chefs at the prepared food counter and a registered holistic nutritionist at the in-store wellness centre. The store has become a destination for shoppers from throughout the region, and the new Illy Commisso’s Bistro + Cafe adds to the experience. 

Illy cappuccino and Espresso at Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe

The Illy Commisso's Experience

The space includes sleek displays of fresh pastries and sandwiches made on site, gleaming espresso machines, digital menus and staff trained to tease out the best in Illy’s coffee beans, including tweaking the grinder depending on weather to ensure the quality of made-to-order brews. 

There will be seasonal offerings made with beans from Illy, the first company in the world to earn the Responsible Supply Chain Process certification for sustainable practices and the quality of Illy’s relationships with suppliers. Expect cold brew, steeped for 12 hours, in the high heat of summer, and comforting espresso shots and cappuccinos in winter.

Illy Commisso's Bistro + Cafe counter

Teas by Dammann are also an option. And those who don’t want to stick around to enjoy their java at the cafe can purchase Illy coffee machines, beans, ground coffee or capsules to take home.

“It was important to partner with Illy to create a destination for coffee. We weren’t really known for being a coffee destination…. That was really important to upgrade those product offerings for our customers,” Rocky said as new and old regulars gathered at bistro tables for their coffee klatches. 

“The stories I hear now, I see ladies sitting down having coffee with their friends. This is their meeting place. They catch up on some things and go shopping. I love that. It brings people together and gives them an experience.”

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*Contest winners must answer a skill-testing question and be able to pick up the gift certificate at Commisso's Fresh Foods.

16 comments

  • Diane on Nov 15th, 2018
    Enjoyed this! Informative and would entice anyone to make it a destination!
  • Suzanne on Nov 17th, 2018
    I would love to have a coffee with my friend Lori Taraba at the new commisso’s/illy coffee bistro!
  • Kait on Nov 17th, 2018
    When I was on mat leave the Commissos cafe was one of my favourite places to escape to and have a cup of coffee with a friend and her son. Excited to try the new cafe with my partner and fuel up with some coffee to keep up with our toddler!
  • JoAnne on Nov 17th, 2018
    The best grocery store in Niagara! I’m ridiculously grateful that they are here. I’d take my coffee-loving hubby, of course.
  • Kristen Sullivan on Nov 18th, 2018
    Sounds delish, I'd love to check it out with my friend Jess Button :)
  • Allison p on Nov 18th, 2018
    Cant wait to visit with my mom friends!!
  • Bev LeBlanc on Nov 18th, 2018
    I’d just love to have a coffee with my daughter in law Pamela at Commisso’s/illy coffee bistro, it’s wonderful to chat over a coffee with a sweet on the side. Love Commisso’s
  • John on Nov 19th, 2018
    I'd like to have coffee with my Grandfather. He has the best stories to tell
  • Katelyn on Nov 19th, 2018
    I'd like to have coffee with my mom!
  • Melissa on Nov 19th, 2018
    Would love to have coffee with a group of strong motivated woman to help lift each other up and create friendships!
  • Linda on Nov 19th, 2018
    Love your blog I hope to bring My hubs, who is the best
  • Diana on Nov 19th, 2018
    What a lovely cafe space Commisso has! A partnership with Illy is perfect for that European atmosphere! I would love to have a Sunday morning coffee there with my husband Chris
  • Michelle on Nov 21st, 2018
    Looks like the greatest spot to grab coffee & a bite with girlfriends!
  • Shirley on Nov 21st, 2018
    Would love to have a coffee with Oprah Winfrey lol!!
  • Natalie on Nov 21st, 2018
    It’s my favourite spot to grab a coffee with my Grandpa. It’s a welcoming and calm atmosphere where we both feel relaxed and can have a break. He always ends up sharing his old life stories and memories and it’s the best part of the week.
  • Dana on Nov 22nd, 2018
    Excited to try the new cafe section! I'm already a huge fan of the in store gelato!! I would love to be able to kick back and enjoy a good cup of coffee with my sister. Its been years since we've seen each other & we're both coffee nuts!

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