The ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing above a cafe

Rose Ot­tavi-Kokko­ris did not ex­pect to find her­self liv­ing above her North Ho­bart cafe, but it’s all part of the ad­ven­ture of fam­ily life and it has def­i­nite ad­van­tages

Mercury (Hobart) - Magazine - - Up Front - WORDS BRADY MICHAELS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MATHEW FAR­RELL

T he Ital­ian com­mu­nity has long called North Ho­bart home, with eater­ies on the restau­rant strip and the iconic Ital­ian Club with its an­nual Festa Italia event. Then there’s Patanella, the cor­ner cafe op­er­ated by long­time lo­cal Rose Ot­tavi-Kokko­ris, who lives above her cafe with her chil­dren Ge­or­gia, 16, St­effi, 13, and Julius, 11.

Rose’s liv­ing sit­u­a­tion was nei­ther planned or ex­pected – rather, it is the re­sult of chal­lenges the mother and small-busi­ness owner has faced in the past few years.

On our Mon­day visit, the Ar­gyle St cafe is closed and Rose is en­joy­ing her first “week­end” since it opened in 2015. She has just stopped trad­ing on Sun­days, af­ter two years of work­ing six days a week.

“Some things are more im­por­tant than work and money,” she says. “And now I’ve got more time for my fam­ily. It’s worth ev­ery cent.”

The fam­ily of four oc­cu­pies three up­stairs bed­rooms, with the down­stairs cafe used as the fam­ily din­ing and lounge room when closed, and the com­mer­cial kitchen meet­ing their cook­ing needs.

Vin­tage fur­ni­ture fills the cafe space, which also dis­plays the col­lec­tion of kitsch and knick-knacks Rose has col­lected since she was eight.

“I lit­er­ally emp­tied my house into this cafe,” she says. “This is my din­ing ta­ble, that’s my lounge suite. Ev­ery­thing here is from my house.”

As a re­sult, the cafe is a charm­ing man­i­fes­ta­tion of Rose’s cre­ative per­son­al­ity and love of nos­tal­gia, set off by a vin­tage ter­razzo floor and match­ing, mod­ernist stair­case. As she speaks, her 84-year-old mother Eu­lalia sits qui­etly on the couch with her eyes closed, completing the homely scene.

Rose and her fam­ily pre­vi­ously lived in a three-bed­room semi-de­tached house next to her child­hood home, not far from the cafe. She bought her half of the con­joined house from her par­ents in 2008.

Per­sonal and fi­nan­cial cir­cum­stances later led to the “dev­as­tat­ing” threat of bank­ruptcy and loss of a house that had been in the fam­ily for decades. Rose moved her fam­ily out of their trea­sured home, which is now rented out, es­tab­lish­ing her new cafe as a newly sin­gle mum on a shoe­string bud­get.

One of two tat­toos on Rose’s fore­arms re­veals a sim­ple knife, fork and spoon, rep­re­sent­ing the cut­lery al­lo­cated to her late father, Teodino Ot­tavi, when he started work at the Hy­dro-Elec­tric Com­mis­sion in the 1950s. The other tat­too fea­tures a strong­man on a uni­cy­cle jug­gling a house, cof­fee cup and heart, sym­bol­is­ing her roles as home owner, en­tre­pre­neur and par­ent.

Rose says liv­ing and work­ing at the same address is prac­ti­cally es­sen­tial to keep­ing ev­ery­thing in the air.

“Try­ing to get the [kids] ready for school in the morn­ing would be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble if I had to leave the build­ing,” she says. “I work re­ally hard down here, but as soon as the door is shut, it be­comes our space.”

Rose has been “over­whelmed” by the sup­port of her com­mu­nity of friends and cus­tomers over the past two years, as well as the kind­ness of the broader com­mu­nity that raised the $17,000 needed to save her house. While her goal of mov­ing back into her own home may still be some time off, Rose has many bless­ings to count along the way. And as long as she’s liv­ing and work­ing at North Ho­bart with the peo­ple she loves around her, she’s al­ways at home.

“It’s lucky, be­cause I ac­tu­ally bloody love it here,” she says.

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