About Nino

With his warm smile, Sicilian roots, and passion for food, Nino Barbalace is a true Italian in all senses of the word.

He grew up in Messina, Sicily in a large Italian household that included his father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and learned to cook under the guidance of his vivacious aunt, Zia (Aunt) Gianna. Together they made authentic Sicilian recipes, learning and reinforcing the unspoken rules of traditional Sicilian cooking. It was during these formative moments, bonding with his precious aunt, that Nino gained the skills he needed to work in the family restaurant. Though he loved cooking in the restaurant, Nino decided to pursue his passion for architecture, so he completed his degree, earned his PhD, and then moved to Cambridge, Mass to pursue his post-doctorate.

After several years working on the conservation of historic properties in Boston, Nino decided it was time to share his culture – his food – with others, and return to the kitchen.  He went to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts to receive a formal training, then began working as a private chef. Three years later, demand dictated that it was time to open his own space. 


Now, with Zia Gianna Caffè, an homage to the woman that inspired his culinary greatness, Nino hopes to create a community where people can enjoy their food and company in a bright, warm Sicilian-inspired setting. Rather than rushing out with a cup of coffee in hand (though that will be an option!), Nino hopes to create an environment where busy Bostonians can take a breath, enjoy

a coffee, try Sicilian-inspired breakfast dishes, and savor each spoonful of tiramisu.