Photography: Elle of @elleshungry
Photography: Elle of @elleshungry

Photography: Elle of @elleshungry
Photography: Elle of @elleshungry

Photography: Elle of @elleshungry
Photography: Elle of @elleshungry

Photography: Elle of @elleshungry
Photography: Elle of @elleshungry


The Grumpy Barista: The Duo Behind the Sydney Cafe

20 February, 2020

Carlo and Carmelo have been inseparable for almost thirty years. Being cousins places second to the fact that they have been lifelong best mates. Their paths have mirrored each other with near perfect symmetry, both growing up in Sydney’s inner West, both of Italian heritage, both beginning their forays into hospitality at a young age, and both having managed cafes with the enduring intent to one day have one to call their own. The shared aspiration was realised in 2013, when The Grumpy Barista swung open its doors on Audley St, Petersham.

“until he gets his coffee, don’t talk to him"

Who is the barista and why is he grumpy? Carlo and Carmelo receive this query often, mostly due to the distinct absence of any ill-tempered personality behind the grinder. The name references Carlo’s firm status as a non-morning person. The cure for his daily affliction, that first coffee. Carmelo has learnt from experience to give his cousin a wide berth until that first brew, saying “until he gets his coffee, don’t talk to him”.

A growing and loyal customer base necessitated a 2017 move to a larger premises and the boys’ lifelong affiliation

to the inner West eliminated any other area from consideration. The move to Alexandria doubled the seating capacity, and brought a continuation of the same quality experience as that of Petersham, but in a vastly different setting. Where the Audley Street outlet was “industrial with rustic finishing", the Alexandria iteration found home in a heritage standing, adopting a more “luxury feel” in combination with a crisp pink colour theme.

“when we arrived, they called it the ‘curse corner’. In two decades, no business had succeeded"

If the disruption of moving venues was not pressure enough, Carmelo and Carlo were aware the Alexandria heritage lot held a menacing stigma, born out of the failures of previous tenants, “when we arrived, they called it the ‘curse corner’. In two decades, no business had succeeded, from cafes, food stores to real estates. We are stoked that we have been able to break the curse”. The success of The Grumpy Barista was hardly left to chance. The duo’s mission has always been to provide customers with “an experience they will be talking about, and telling friends about for weeks”, and this experience has forged a devoted following during the working week, comprised of Alexandria’s demographic blend of corporate and residential. The creative and vibrant plating of an ever-evolving brunch menu brings the weekend “social media crowds” and bestows the Grumpy Barista its ‘destination café’ status.

A recent menu refresh suits the mood of a Sydney summer. The colours of seasonal fruits combine to create one of Sydney’s most aesthetic brunch dishes, the Granola Panacotta. However, nothing at The Grumpy Barista falls prey to the all-to-common, ‘all show no go’ pitfall of Sydney cafes. The artistry of the plating does not come at the expense of taste. The Grumpy’s Hotpot is a mainstay for those whose pallet favours the hearty, regardless of season, and the Brioche French Toast has become a regular feature of Sydney-based social media feeds, a survivor by popular demand from the Petersham days.  For Carlo, the menu is devised to be fresh, diverse and have something that ‘jumps out’ to everyone, “we are always pushing our menu as far as we can. We always want our customers to experience more”.


Carlo and Carmelo very much represent a ‘new-age’ of Sydney café proprietors. Young, passionate and infinitely energetic in their efforts to enhance the experience of their patrons. For this reason, The Grumpy Barista, after seven years of trade, still feels as fresh day one.

The Grumpy Barista


SUN : 8AM - 3PM

34 Henderson Street, Alexandria


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Photography: Elle from @elleshungry

  • Elleshungry