Luisa Minchella has traded in designer labels for healthy produce with her new Happy Organic store and café venture, which is bringing a smile to the faces of folk in Cleadon. KATHARINE CAPOCCI went to meet her
IT seems rather a fitting name for Luisa Minchella’s new health store and café, as the success of the Happy Organic venture certainly has the lady in question all smiles.
We meet on a Sunday morning at the smart, bustling café-cum-shop in Cleadon village, near South Shields.
There’s a lively chatter emanating from the inviting licensed café where an eclectic crowd of family groups, keep-fit enthusiasts and couples have popped in for brunch and coffees.
Dad Romano Minchella, who co-owns Bistro Romano, directly opposite on Front Street, and also Romano’s Italian restaurant in the Metrocentre, with his brother Paolo, is in and out of the kitchen, while Luisa’s mum Anne is behind the counter brewing up coffees. Anne’s immaculately dressed mum, meanwhile, is clearing tables.
Sweet treats on sale at the counter include walnut and banana loaf, scones and biscotti to go with your Grumpy Mule coffee or heartier offerings such as Tuscan bean soup, quiche, vegetable and bean curry, home-made pizza and avocado and prawn salad.
It’s very much a jolly family affair on the day in question.
The stylish 36-year-old may have swapped the designer clothing boutique, Aria, she used to run with her mum Anne but it’s evident the new venture is one Luisa takes great pride in.
Healthy eating is a cause particularly close to her heart as she’s in her final year of studying to be a nutritionist at the College of Naturopathic Medicine in London.
“Food’s always been in my blood but probably my inspiration was the course, learning about health and nutrition,” says Luisa, who is as slim as a pencil, dressed in patterned leggings and sparkly jumper, and positively glows with good health.
“I love visiting places like this down south, and I wanted to bring that up here.”
Members of Luisa’s extended Minchella family are, of course, famed for their terrific ice cream, with her two uncles now at the helm of that business.
“My grandfather Toney Minchella made ice cream. Three different brothers made three different flavours. My dad originally was involved in the ice cream business in the 70s and 80s but then branched out into restaurants.
“Dad has six brothers but only Carlo and Aldo run the ice-cream business.”
“Dad has had Romano’s in the village for about 14 years but he’s been in the restaurant trade for 30 years. He had a restaurant in Whitburn and also used to do the food at the Customs House in South Shields.
“Dad helps with the food side here but we’ve got three chefs as well, and mum helps on a Sunday.”