Students and locals can now add Ciao Coffee, a new family-owned cafe, to their list of favorite java joints. A close walk from campus, patrons can hear the buzzing of blenders and beats of music from decades past at the new shop.
The cafe’s owners are husband and wife Ben and Shelby Zeneli, members of a popular family in San Marcos. The Zeneli family has been a part of the community for years, running local favorites such as Italian Garden and Nostimo Mediterranean Cafe.
Shelby Zeneli said she envisions the shop as a late-night study space for students and business people to enjoy.
The shop was meant to be a gelato place for families to enjoy after Italian Garden. However, as students themselves, the two Zeneli’s took into consideration the needs of the student population and decided to serve both coffee and gelato.
“I just finished my sculpture degree last semester, and Ben is still in school in his third year,” Shelby said. “We wanted to make a different atmosphere, a comfortable, bright and energetic area.”
Ciao Coffee opened June 29 with a contemporary look, setting it apart from the majority of other local coffee shops. For less than $3, coffee connoisseurs can enjoy flavorful cups of cold brew offered in medium and large sizes.
The shop offers an array of treats, from gelato to Maine Root beverages to specialty coffee concoctions. The breakfast and lunch sandwich selection differs from other shops in both price and size—at least five sandwiches are under $5.
The shop employs Peyton Price, psychology sophomore, as a barista. Price said she has always wanted to learn how to make drinks and likes Ciao Coffee in particular for its vibe and homemade ingredients.
“The thing I like best about Ciao is some of the things that they make,” Price said. “Some of the things they put in the drinks, the owner makes himself, like the lavender syrup—it goes in the Lavish Lavender. I think it’s going to be a hit here.”
The store provides both indoor and outdoor seating, hot and cold drinks and snacks and pastries. Ciao Coffee creates a unique atmosphere, decorated with a modern flair, not typical to San Marcos.
Shelby and Ben Zeneli can sometimes be found at the shop, greeting customers and making sure everything is running smoothly. Since opening, the shop’s customers have been a mixture of student patrons and San Marcos locals.
The shop is to remain open until 11 p.m. starting the fall semester for late night study sessions. Currently, the store is open from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Shelby Hulshof, animal science senior, said she is happy to see yet another shop pop up in town so close to campus.
“I live off coffee, and I got the caramel cinnamon iced latte, I thought it was really good,” Hulshof said. “I think they have lots of other interesting drinks. There is some stuff on the menu that is creative—stuff I wouldn’t have thought of.”
The owners will be getting punch cards so their customers can enjoy special deals, and they intend to start offering student specials.