CopaMoca opens soon, looks to establish a Little Italy in Village of the Arts

Though he spent much of his adult life as an engineer, Sal Alfonso never got over his first love of making Italian pastries, food and the kind of family culture surrounded by those things Alfonso said he wants to bring to his new venture, CopaMoca, in the Village of the Arts.

Alfonso said he is planning a soft opening around mid-December and will celebrate a grand opening after the holidays.

When Sugar Cubed vacated its former location in the Village of the Arts, 1506 13th St. W., to open a new location, Alfonso saw an opportunity for a dream to come true and to share that dream with others. It’s much more than a vision to make good Italian treats. It’s a vision to bring that friendly Italian neighborhood atmosphere into the village.

And where better than to be located next door to his long-time friend Chef Gaetano “Guy” Cannata at Ortygia restaurant. The two hope to brand that section of 13th Street West in the village as Little Italy.

“I hope we can come back to the corner grocery store,” Alfonso said. “I hope we can come back to the neighborhood bakery like it was when I grew up. Where it’s more personable, everyone’s on a first-name basis, a more humanistic approach. Let’s bring it back and take all the artificial corporate big stuff out and go back to where it should be.”

Alfonso grew up in a New York Italian neighborhood in Syracuse, where he was raised in a large Italian family. Cooking and baking are no strangers to him and he did his first stint in an Italian bakery at age 14 and he fell in love with the craft.

Sal Alfonso is opening CopaMoca, an “Italian-infused cafe,” in December in the Village of the Arts. Tiffany Tompkins

“It’s a passion of mine,” he said. “I love to see people enjoy the taste of foods. I think we’ve gone away from that with a fast-food culture. Society is too fast and we have to slow down and enjoy or the food is neglected. I feel bad for people who don’t know and take the time to experience taste, so this will be the place where they can do that.”

From Italian cookies to paninis to biscotti made for both red and white wine, CopaMoca will offer sweet and savory dishes with an emphasis on the sweet side.

“I’m in love with the art of pastry,” Alfonso said. “And almost every pastry I make has a history and a story dating back to the Renaissance.”

Dine-in seating will be available upon opening and Alfonso hopes to branch out into the catering world. He has felt the resurgence of his childhood calling for the past three years. His mother passed away in 2014 and he said it was a message to him when he stumbled across her recipe book.

“I found this cake she used to make me as a kid that I loved and I baked it and it came out perfect,” he said. “It brought me back to that time frame when I was a kid and it all kicked back in. I’m happy to be here in the Village of the Arts and want to get involved. There is a lot of momentum here and I want to help that out.”