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Best of Bosses 2008(6)

By:Kate Hardy

A new challenge. One where she’d be working with people. Using all her skills. This sounded right up her street.

As if he’d read her mind, he added softly, ‘And I think that person’s you.’

‘You’ve only just met me. How do you know I’m what you’re looking for?’ she asked. ‘For all you know, I’m not really an experienced office manager. I could be a pathological liar.’

‘I’ve worked in this business long enough to be a good judge of people,’ he said simply. ‘I trust my instinct. You’re no bunny-boiler. And if you were a pathological liar, you’d have told me that not only could you read a P and L statement, you could do business projection modelling and write your own computer programs, while juggling six flaming torches and tap-dancing on a tightrope all at the same time.’

She couldn’t help smiling at the picture he’d painted. ‘Juggling, tap-dancing and tightrope walking aren’t quite my forte. Though I can use a computer and I know where to get help if I’m stuck.’

‘Exactly. You’re straight and practical and honest.’

Which wasn’t quite what a woman wanted to hear from a man, but this wasn’t a date anyway, she reminded herself. This was business.

‘In short, you’re exactly what I’m looking for.’ He paused. ‘Though, since you brought it up, how do you know that I’m not a pathological liar?’

‘Because if you didn’t own or at least run the coffee shop, you wouldn’t have been the only one there after closing time, you wouldn’t have the keys and you probably wouldn’t be called Giovanni.’

‘He isn’t. His real name’s Fred,’ Marco interposed, bringing them the scamorza.

‘Just ignore him. He’s only jealous because his coffee’s not as good as mine,’ Gio retorted with a grin. ‘Cugino mio, any time you want a lesson on getting the perfect crema on an espresso—’

‘—I’ll ask your dad,’ Marco teased. ‘Enjoy your antipasto, signorina…?’ He waited for a name.

‘Fran,’ she said with a smile.

‘Fran.’ He looked thoughtful. ‘Short for Frances?’


‘An Italian name. Hmm.’ Marco gave Gio a knowing look, and was rewarded with a stream of Italian.

Fran, judging it wiser not to ask, tried her scamorza. ‘It’s gorgeous,’ she said.

‘Course it is. My aunt Netti’s a fabulous cook.’ Gio gave her another of those knee-buckling smiles. ‘So, Fran. Francesca. Your family has Italian blood?’

‘No idea.’ And she really wasn’t comfortable talking about her family.

He didn’t seem upset that she’d been a bit short with him. ‘So we’ve established that we trust each other, yes?’

She wasn’t quite sure how to answer that.

‘Trust has to start somewhere,’ he said softly. ‘And if you see the best in people—expect the best from them—they’ll give you their best.’

‘Is this another of your Italian grandmother’s sayings?’

‘Yup—she’s a very wise woman, my nonna. When I was a teenager, I used to think she was just rabbiting on. But, the older I get, the more I realise she knows what she’s talking about.’ He raised an eyebrow. ‘Actually, you remind me of her in a way.’

‘I’ll take that as a compliment.’

‘It was.’ He ate another mouthful of scamorza. ‘As I said, this job’s got your name on it. But you’ll also need to understand the business from the bottom up.’

‘Running a coffee shop?’

He nodded. ‘Specifically, Giovanni’s. What makes us different from the competition. What makes us special. What makes people come to us instead of one of the national chains or the independents. So I need someone who understands about coffee.’

Fran shook her head. ‘That counts me out. I know what I like—cappuccino and latte—but when it comes to all these complicated orders…’

Gio took a sip of wine. ‘Firstly, all coffees are based on espresso. And Giovanni’s doesn’t go in for coffee that takes half an hour and a degree in rocket science to order. We make it easy for the customer. A basic espresso for those who like black coffee; latte, cappuccino and Americano for those who like varying degrees of milk or frothiness. Hot chocolate, mocha for those who like a mixture, tea with milk or lemon, and iced coffees and smoothies in summer.’ He ticked them off on his fingers. ‘Pastries and biscotti in the morning, paninis for lunch and cakes for the middle of the afternoon. It’s a matter of knowing what our customers like and second-guessing the right quantities so that we don’t run out, but also don’t have to throw away too much.’ He looked thoughtful. ‘I suppose it’s like you’d book your studio slots so you weren’t empty half the time and double-booked the rest of the time.’