By Tom Cesarini
When you don’t see Neapolitan tenor and Little Italy favorite Rosario Monetti belting out a favorite aria in awe-inspiring programs and venues locally and globally, you can find him overseeing his newest venture — Meshuggah Shack in Mission Hills — serving up a great cup of coffee, and often with a tune at no additional charge. You can also see Rosario perform in Little Italy at Amici House in the coming months where he assembles unforgettable shows. We sat down with Rosario to ask him about his latest endeavor.
What attracted you to this new venture?
It was by chance. A friend told me about the coffee kiosk on sale, and the funny thing is that we always talked about this little place and how much we loved it. Everything started from the previous owner who, about 10 years ago, turned a bank ATM into a coffee kiosk — yes, it was an ATM before. The quirkiness is basically the creativity of the old owner but even more the contribution over the years of the loyal customers — each of them has put in a bit of his own vision of the place.
As an Italian entrepreneur in San Diego, what have you noticed about differences in business (and lifestyle) practices between Italy and the U.S.?
The main difference from a business point of view is the easier approach to bureaucracy here, from the very beginning to the final step for the business to be active and alive. In Italy, the bureaucracy is a nightmare, which pushes away many entrepreneurs from my native country. The lifestyle also is very different —everything in Italy is delayed — breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at 1:30 p.m., and dinner at 8:30 p.m. And, of course, the nightlife as well — and I mean daily nightlife — you go out at 11 p.m. over there, and here at 11 p.m., you are already in your dreams, sleeping.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs coming here?
To learn the American and Californian culture and lifestyle first, which gives you a better perspective and perception of who your future clients will be. What works in our own country, no matter how effective it is and how good we are over there, can be a failure over here. Long story short — whoever comes here for the first time and wants to be an entrepreneur has to put his native cultural ego on the side and be willing to accept the cultural differences of this place and be willing and happy to work with it; compromise and melt in with it; without, of course, losing his own authenticity and flavor.
Tell us about your passion and singing career.
My passion for music started when I was a kid even if I was not really aware that I was able to sing. Eventually some friends of mine were playing in a bar, and because they previously heard me singing in the car with them asked me to sing something and join them at this club. The song was “With or Without You” by U2, and it was a success. The people went crazy and requested me even the day after, and so I became officially part of the band. That was the moment I understood that I had the potential and the talent to be a professional singer. The real game changer came later on when I started studying music and voice, and my first teacher told me that my voice was naturally made to sing classical and opera, and here I am as an opera singer now.
What new musical projects are you working on?
I am working on organizing a beautiful concert with a 25-piece orchestra with the collaboration of an acclaimed orchestra director and music arranger who has arranged and directed the music for Andrea Bocelli and many other famous Italian singers. I am also going to Sicily for a week as a guest singer for an archeological and wine tour, and there are other projects that I will tell about and promote very soon.
What do you want people to know about Rosario Monetti?
Come see me at the Meshuggah! When I am there, most likely I will be singing while making coffees! Remember that a smile is always something available for everyone. For me, it’s all about my love for life, music, and a cup of great coffee.
Visit meshuggahshack.com for more information.
— Tom Cesarini is the executive director and founder of Convivio and also serves as the Italian honorary consul of San Diego. Convivio cultivates community and fellowship, advances Italian cultural identity, and fosters multicultural awareness across myriad disciplines through education and research, social enrichment, and innovative programming. Visit or conviviosociety.org or follow along at @conviviosociety.