How Nathaniel Praino’s hard work and determination turned his dream panini and coffee shop into a reality

This month, LOSA has decided to highlight Nathaniel Praino. Nathaniel attended Loreto from 1993-1995, then moved to St Ignatius to see out the remainder of his schooling. When Loreto Marryatville first opened, its schooling extended to educating boys in their junior primary-aged years. This is something that is unique to both the College and Loreto Old Scholars.

Nathaniel shares with us his journey in opening his dream shop, Nathaniel’s Coffee & Panini and how during turbulent times, it took some extra hard work and determination to make it happen. Nathaniel also shares with us how his time at Loreto made a positive impression on him and he formed friendships that he still has connections with today.

Nathaniel in his own words:

I started at Loreto College in 1993 following in my sisters’ footsteps, (Eloise Praino ‘02), who was four years above me, along with a handful of cousins. In reception, I was in Miss Cappo’s class, year one brought me into Mrs Jones’ classroom and year two with Mrs Grigoras (see photos below). Being one of the few boys in the class, it made an impression on me. I made bonds there that I still have today, friends that have helped in my growth and development into a ‘me’ that stands out from all the rest.

In 1995, when my friends were talking about going to different schools the next year and I was set to go to St. Ignatius College. I completed year three to year twelve (1996-2005), with a year in Townsville in 2004.

After a very confusing year twelve and not many strong ideas into what area I wanted to get into as an adult, I enrolled into TAFE where I completed a pre-vocational course in Carpentry. At the same time, I worked at Cibo Espresso in Prospect. Mid-year 2006, I was taught how to be a Barista and soon found a love that would flourish into a career of fun, expertise and a heap of creativity.

I spent six years at Cibo, then moved to a restaurant in the city for a short while and then moved out to Mitcham to a small kiosk café called Mooi. That is when my mind started coming up with the big plan to start my own café. I worked when I needed, saved lots of money and kept most of my grand ideas close by. All the while, I moved on to the next café, Market St, where I met some cool and creative people who put me on the path of where I wanted to head. Shortly after, I was head hunted by an old mentor to work at Mercato in Campbelltown, where I honed the skills I needed to create my dream shop.

In 2017, I met the girl of my dreams and now Fiancé, Lidia. Later that year, I was made Head Barista at Mercato and then the planning started for Nathaniel’s Coffee & Panini.

It was a plan that was meant to be complete to perfection. My shop was going to have a grand opening and the whole street was going to be invited.

INSERT COVID19 warning signs and the whole shebang#!

The date was the fourth of April this year (2020) when I decided to test the waters and see how the shop would go. Only a few days earlier, the Government told us we could not congregate with large numbers of people, cafes and restaurants could only do take-away; and that meant I could no longer show off my brand-new shop.

Lidia works at Olympic Party Hire and given all events had been cancelled, she was able to help me out. I hired another staff, a cousin of mine, Sofia De Corso, also a Loreto Old Scholar (‘15) whom also helped me out.  My mother, Dorina, helps out every morning from 6am-8am, preparing the panini’s and other such food preps.

With all my family surrounding me, I could focus on making the best of what I had. I received an overwhelming audience the first couple of days, Saturday became Sunday, Sunday became Monday and the days carried on like I had planned. Although I had no intention to have a rushed opening, it just fell into place and more locals became interested in my shop.

Although the covid-19 situation delayed my business, I was given support by not only the locals, but small businesses doing it tough. When I went to the shops to buy groceries, when I wanted a snack or when I wanted to get take-away food, I kept them in mind and always considered helping a fellow small business. I felt a sense of community, something you would understand with a similar upbringing.

I serve panini’s, sweets and treats made by my sister Eloise, toasties and best of all, coffee roasted by D’Angelo.

I have always had a fascination in how things work and coffee is such a complex process, I just had to put my take on it. Tell me what you like in a coffee, how hot you want it, and I’ll remember it for next time.

Check out Nathaniel’s Coffee & Panini on Instagram here and Facebook here