By Amelia Favela
Contessa Italian Home Collection, also known as Contessa Collection, is a home décor and gift shop that carries keepsakes imported directly from Italy. Maria Luisa, who is from Florence, Italy, founded the shop in 1998 in the Pasadena Burlington Arcade with the intentions of bringing a piece of her hometown to America. “I started importing things that were speaking not only for me, but for Florentines at large.” Luisa’s assortment of beautiful handmade artifacts imported directly from Italy consists of leather, jewelry, pottery, Venetian glass and art, to name a few.
After becoming established as an authentic Italian shop, Luisa decided to branch out into showcasing food from her native country by opening Contessa Chocolate Collection in 2011. The unconventional café carries some of the finest Italian ingredients that allow guests to truly taste Italy, such as ancient grain pasta, honey, olive oil, beans, rice, sauces, non-cultivated berry juices, chocolate, and organic world champion E.V.O.O. The rich-tasting non-GMO products are absolutely one-of-a-kind as many of them are even rare to find in Italy.
The café, which reflects the slow-food movement, believes firmly in the Mediterranean diet. Which means guests can assure they are eating a meal that is not only tasty, but healthy too. Oppose to the average café setting where customers order from a menu, anyone who comes to enjoy a lunch at this café simply asks, “What’s for lunch?” with the expectation of receiving an authentic Italian meal. What’s even more exciting is that guests not only get to taste rare ingredients, but they also have the opportunity to take them home. Visitors can purchase anything from ancient grain pastas to rare olive oil as gifts or to make their own Italian dishes.
The Contessa Collection core values are quality, integrity, and sharing. Luisa believes it is important to share the integrity that goes into harvesting the ingredients found at her café. “Quality food can really make a difference if we pay attention to it … we can eat less but always better,” Luisa said. Everything that isn’t imported from Italy is made from scratch, so customers can be assured that what they are eating was delicately prepared.
One of the challenges is getting people to understand the value of quality food, especially in a city populated by a generation that has grown accustomed to favoring convenience over quality. Being that visitors who want to enjoy a Contessa Chocolate Collection lunch must dine in, visitors have to appreciate good food over fast food.
In order to help people better understand the importance of quality food, Luisa offers educational handouts as well as her own time to talk intently with customers about the origin of the Contessa Collection products; which is something she very much enjoys.
Luisa hopes to continue to expand the Contessa Collection while educating guests about the rich history of each product along the way.
Contact Contessa Collection at (626) 744-0252 or visit them at 380 South Lake Avenue #101, Pasadena, CA 91101.