Suspended coffee. A curious definition, known mostly to the Neapolitans, but also widespread elsewhere.
It is an ancient tradition that consists in giving a cup of coffee for the benefit of a stranger, a needy one. A paid coffee is left suspended.
Just in Naples this definition was used to give life, a couple of years ago, to a project of “social reintegration” for minors in the penal area.
“A suspended coffee… like our lives”.
Cristian 21 years old, smiles, looks down and serves coffee, his first coffee, to the police commissioner of Naples, Guido Marino, a “zero” customer of this unusual bar.
We are inside the Juvenile Court, in the Aminei Hills, where the buvette has been renovated and equipped thanks to some sponsors, and has been taken over by theScugnizzi Association which follows the reintegration into work of young people at risk in the Campania penal area.
“Suspended coffee” provides a three-month internship, with a salary of 500 euros per month. A bartender school in the field, a non-neutral field, but this is precisely the challenge: to bring the two worlds closer together, to make them “contaminate”, to ensure that young people who come from the world of illegality learn a job in the temple of legality.
The boys will find themselves serving coffee and breakfasts to magistrates, judges, lawyers, carabinieri and prison officers, all figures who have seen them on the table of the accused, the same ones who had to punish them for the crimes committed.
A distant world for them, even an “enemy”, is transformed into a workplace, a source of income, a school of life, a familiar place.
I’m here at the cafe with Antonio Franco, president of the Scugnizzi association. I specify that it is a laboratory “of a school of work and life” and that
“The goal is to teach these young people a job and then place them in the real market, they who never had a job, and” easy money “was their only goal in life”.
Two boys (or girls) in semi-freedom, in the family home or with a sentence to be extinguished, will alternate cyclically at the counter. To guide future barmen is the master Mario Alberino:
“Before teaching them how a coffee machine works, I teach them to welcome the customer and to deal with people. It is a school of life behind the counter, which can only be good for these young people ”.
Drinking coffee in this bar “under the office” is also the President of the Juvenile Court, Maurizio Barruffo:
“This bar will be a perfect integration gym. With kids at risk you can do activities and jobs, but it is all quite useless if there is no concrete prospect once the sentence is over. Here we teach how to work and we give these guys a chance to build a new future. it will certainly be a school for us too! ”.
Keep it going Antonio Franco:
“Giving these kids a salary, even if it is minimal, means showing them that there really is an honest way to bring money to their families.”
Cristian and Daniele, the two barmen enlisted first, have understood this concept of work well, and while they are preparing my coffee they confide in me:
“We made a mistake and paid. Now we are looking for a new life and work is the first step ”.
The two Scugnizzi they will have the alarm every day at 6.30 to be punctual behind the counter at eight, in uniform. Having rules, a schedule, obligations is certainly a new stimulus, as well as an 8-hour working day.
“This does not scare us – says Daniele – we are ready. And I love making coffee! ”.
Stories of suspended lives “but with the certainty of a good day that will come, no more useless dreams but with a solid reality”, as we read on the plaque hanging inside the bar, from today, the first day of opening, and from tomorrow , real day of the inauguration: February 12, 2016.
And the suspended coffee will also be part of my “Stories of food behind the bars“, the book that tells all these realities, of “forthcoming” publication.